Columbus non-profit helps and accompanies “youth at risk”

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) — A Columbus nonprofit aims to make sure at-risk youth don’t end up dead in senseless violence or in jail. The man behind the program says he is no stranger to life on the streets and hopes to make a difference in the lives of the children he meets.

Life doesn’t always depend on the hand you are dealt, but rather on how you play it. Keith Bridges is no stranger to adversity. The cards stacked against him at a young age after a traffic accident landed him in prison. But now he spends his days sowing seeds in the lives of at-risk children through his mentorship program called “Building Better Bridges.”

“There are a lot of absent fathers in the household, so a lot of our kids have homes where they don’t grow up with positive male role models in their homes. I wanted to build a program that embodies that,” Bridges said. “I understand how difficult it is to be placed in the system and then to be an African American man in this country and then to try to bounce back from that. Seeing them succeed and be successful, not being in the penitentiary or being killed is what I associate with our success.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. It’s a quote Keith Bridges keeps on his desk in his classroom at the Marshall Success Center, and visible to everyone who walks through his doors at the School for Children with Discipline Problems. Bridges tries to come to terms with it.

Bridges said he created the program in 2017. It’s a mentorship program he started for at-risk youth to do things like get their GED, find a job, or teach literacy. The most important thing he told News Leader 9 is that it helps them stay off the streets and teaches them to be self-sufficient. According to Mickell Haynes, Building Better Bridges even helped him start his own lawn care and pressure washing business.

“Building better bridges has helped me by giving me another path in life. It gives me a positive road. Growing up it’s either go to the military or go to college and get out of it kinda gave me like the big brother take me under your wing and show me those other ways of be successful in life. So I started, but two years ago I created my own landscaping,” Haynes said. “We are passionate about farming and love using your natural resources, what you have and since then taking off with and even with finance has taught me to reinvest in yourself and save money and everything made me a better man and a better person. I truly believe that this program had a huge impact on my life, it gave me new hope.

Keith Bridges is no stranger to losing hope. Once a top athlete in Fountain City, his life was derailed at age 16 when he was framed for a crime that robbed him of his dream of being a college athlete just months before graduating from college. secondary.

“I understand what incarceration looks like. I understand how a young father feels in high school. I understand what it’s like to be involved in neighborhood jams and all that, but at the same time, I don’t want it to dictate who you’re going to be,” Bridges said. “I understand how hard it is to be placed in the system, and then to be an African-American man in this country, and then to try to bounce back from that.”

These days, Bridges said he surrounds himself with others with the same goals, people like Michael Yisreal, the owner of ‘Yahweh Spiritual Seeds’. He is involved in Building Better Bridges’ latest project, which is building a garden for the children of the Rothschild Leadership Academy.

“They will be able to see how they can make money with the plants. Money grows on trees, you know what I mean. They grow on trees. How do they say? Because every time you get a peach tree, you pick up the peaches or you pick up the fruit from the tree. People buy in grocery stores – buy in bulk. And then they pay you to eat. It’s money. It all starts with agriculture,” Yisreal said.

For more information on building better bridges or how you can get involved, click here.

Copyright 2022 WTVM. All rights reserved.

Comments are closed.