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Welcome to Our Newest Board Members

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Earlier this year we were excited to welcome Cheniqua Johnson, Geoff Jones, Gloria Stamps-Smith, Inspector Amelia Huffman and Michael Lehan to our Board of Directors. Our new board members are providing diverse views and expertise that further our collective work at The Bridge for Youth.


Cheniqua Johnson was born and raised in Worthington, Minnesota. She is a first-generation, TRIO college graduate. She received her B.S. in family social science from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities College of Education and Human Development. Currently, she works as District Outreach Coordinator and Scheduler for the first African American Hennepin County Commissioner, Angela Conley. She has spent the last five years in public service having served as the Legislative Correspondent for the former Congressman, now Attorney General, Keith Ellison.





Geoff Jones is a veteran marketing communications professional, currently serving as Marketing and Communications Director for Minneapolis Community and Technical College. A Chicago native, Geoff relocated to Minnesota to attend Carleton College where he received his BA in Fine Arts, and stayed upon discovering the Twin Cities’ abundant career opportunities and rich performing arts community. His heart for working with youth is reflected in his tenure as a student club advisor for 12 years and as former board VP at Project Foundation (now Avenues for Homeless Youth).





Gloria Stamps-Smith is an attorney in the Hennepin county Attorney’s office where she has been for the last 25 years. She has practiced in the area of juvenile prosecution and spent the last eight years in Adult Services/Mental Health Court. Her concern for homeless youth are the direct product of the young people she encountered for many years as a juvenile prosecutor and in mental health court.







Inspector Amelia Huffman commands the 5th Precinct which encompasses the 20 neighborhoods in the southwest corner of the city, bounded by Interstate 35 W on the East, Interstate 94 on the North and the city limits on the West and South. Inspector Huffman has a long history with the 5th Precinct, working there in her first assignment as a patrol officer, as a member of the Community Response Team and as a shift lieutenant. She brings a wealth of experience to her role as a board member.




Michael Lehan is a graduate of Hopkins High School and attended the University of Minnesota, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Family Social Science. He is in his fifth year as Osseo Senior High’s principal and has quickly developed a reputation as a student-centered principal focused on strong leadership and innovation. He is extremely passionate about paying-it-forward to those who are facing the same types of challenges he encountered as an African American youth in foster care. Prior to his career as an educator, Lehan played professional football in the National Football League for six years. Most recently, Michael was named High School Principal of the Year for the Hennepin Division by the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP).


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Nightly in Minnesota, over 6,000 youth experience homelessness. These young people are not homeless by choice. Despite advances in legislation and societal attitudes, LGBTQ+ youth continue to be disproportionately represented among the homeless – with nearly 40% of homeless youth identifying as LGBTQ+. Currently, 23% of youth served at The Bridge self-identify as LGBTQ+ at intake (an increase of 3% from last year). This percentage also rises as youth feel safe disclosing later during service participation. Over 80% cite family conflict/household dynamics as a critical issue. LGBTQ+ youth in crisis need a safe place to stabilize and work through issues, especially youth who are not comfortable being out at home or school.

“The Bridge was founded on the idea that every youth deserves a safe place to be in times of crisis. Today we are proud to further our inclusion efforts specifically for LGBTQ+ homeless youth through enhanced program delivery, increased participation at community events like National Coming Out Day and leadership development for direct care staff.” – Michelle Basham, Executive Director

To meet increased numbers of LGBTQ+ youth turning to The Bridge, and to address the increasingly complex challenges they face, The Bridge was selected to be the recipient of multi-year funding from the United Way Arise Project to focus on preventing and ending LGBTQ+ youth homelessness. This funding will expand services with dedicated staff specifically for LGBTQ+ youth case management; promote LGBTQ+ youth leadership and continue to bring youth voice into LGBTQ+ program design; and increase the cultural competency of staff and volunteers in effectively meeting the needs of LGBTQ+ youth.

As a means to further inclusivity efforts aligned with program implementation as well as leadership development amongst direct care staff, The Bridge is proud to announce Warlance Miner, Diversity Specialist, was selected to participate in the American Express Leadership Academy. This highly competitive program is designed to equip high potential emerging leaders from the nonprofit sector to become successful executives. In partnership with the Stonewall Community Foundation, this year the Academy has invited participants specifically from organizations focused on LGBTQ+ issues.

“At the Bridge for Youth our vision is to serve as a premier resource for diverse populations of youth and families needing support. The American Express Leadership Academy is an opportunity to advance inclusion efforts for LGBTQ+ communities, nation-wide. As a Gay, Native American Man, I understand the fight for equality still continues and I intend to apply all knowledge gained to further provide resource for LGBTQ+ identifying youth.” – Warlance Miner, Diversity Specialist

About The Bridge for Youth
The Bridge for Youth is a safe place for those who no one to turn to and nowhere to go. Founded in 1970, The Bridge for Youth serves homeless, runaway, and abandoned youth, ages 10-17. Services include a 24-hour crisis hotline, emergency and long term shelter, youth and family counseling, and support groups.

Christina Woodlee, Associate Director

Photo: Warlance Miner at Quorum’s 2019 National Coming Out Day Luncheon

The Bridge is Expecting!

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Nightly in Minnesota, over 6,000 youth experience homelessness. These young people are not homeless by choice. Minnesota has fewer than 200 emergency shelter beds statewide for youth. This disparity between the need and the number of youth needing assistance is stunning.  More concerning is that more than one-third of these youth – over 2,000 – are pregnant or parenting, and in Minnesota there are less than 10 site-based units designated as age-appropriate and safe, specifically for homeless teen parents.

To address an urgent and growing need for housing for homeless pregnant and parenting youth, on April 1 2019, the Bridge will launch Marlene’s Place.  Once opened, Marlene’s Place will serve five  homeless pregnant and/or parenting youth ages sixteen up to twenty years old and their dependent children up until age three.

“Nearly 45% of homeless youth in Hennepin County are parenting and the Bridge is pleased to be opening the first site-based program in Hennepin County for parenting youth to respond to this overwhelming need.” – Michelle Basham, Bridge for Youth, Executive Director

Providing comprehensive programming – including housing, access to healthcare, parenting education, experiential life-skills coaching and education; Marlene’s Place will address the unique needs of homeless teen parents and their young children by providing a supportive environment that allows them to heal, learn, grow, and thrive.


About The Bridge for Youth

The Bridge for Youth is a safe place for those with no one to turn to and nowhere to go. Founded in 1970, The Bridge for Youth serves homeless, runaway, and abandoned youth, ages 10-17. Services include a 24-hour crisis hotline, emergency and long term shelter, youth and family counseling, and support groups.


Christina Woodlee, Associate Director


Welcome Michelle to our board!

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Michelle Richardson is the Program Operations Manager for Lifelong Learning at the Science Museum of Minnesota.  After fifteen years of retail and customer service management, Michelle decided to pursue her Masters of Business Administration and seek a career that supports youth engagement. While attending graduate school, Michelle worked as an assistant and software administrator for CommonBond Communities where she grew her passion for youth engagement as a volunteer Study Buddy. After graduation, she was able to combine her education, work experience and passion for youth engagement working within the STEM Equity and Education Division at the museum. Michelle is grateful for the opportunity to support youth engagement as a board member for the Bridge for Youth. When not spending time with family, Michelle considers herself somewhat of a thrill seeker and adrenaline enthusiast.

Meet Our New Board Member!

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Anne Rasmussen

Anne is the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Temple Israel-Minneapolis, one of the ten largest synagogues in the United States. Through her work at Temple Israel, Anne enjoys contributing to the greater community by offering educational programs for all ages via award-winning instructors; addressing homelessness through Families Moving Forward and Bold Hope in the North; and positioning Temple as a space that celebrates people of color, people of all genders and gender expressions, interfaith families, and the LGBTQIA+ community. Prior to her work at Temple, Anne was the COO/CFO at James J. Hill Reference Library; she also has worked independently as a CPA. She holds an MBA from Metropolitan State University and a Bachelor’s from the University of Minnesota. When she’s not at Temple, Anne enjoys spending time with family and friends.

Welcome to Our Newest Board Members

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We are excited to welcome Jason Hertel and Bob Striker to our Board of Directors.

Jason Hertel
Jason is a Senior Director of Information Technology for BlueCross and BlueShield of Minnesota. In his role he leads the departments that provide innovative IT services and support for the company, ensuring that all who work for BlueCross can be as efficient and effective as possible by utilizing modern technology experiences and interactions. He began at BlueCross and BlueShield in 2012 and specifically sought to work there due to its strong mission to make a healthy difference in people’s lives and due to the strong presence BlueCross has in the community. Jason has been involved in the Twin Cities IT community for over 15 years in various leadership positions. Jason received his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with emphasis on Information Systems, and a minor in Communications Studies from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. Jason enjoys spending his personal time bicycling, running, traveling, walking his dog, Gus, and spending time with his family and friends.

Bob Striker
Bob is an attorney in the Minneapolis office of Stinson Leonard Street, LLP, where he practices in the area of real estate development and finance for clients primarily in the energy and transportation sectors. In addition to his service on the Bridge for Youth board, Bob volunteers for the Volunteer Lawyers Network and has served on the boards of other non-profit organizations. He has had an interest in issues related to housing and homelessness since working with the homeless in New York City in the early 1990s. Bob lives in St. Paul with his wife and two teenage boys and enjoys camping and biking.




Welcome to Our New Program Director!

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Christina Heineken Woodlee, Program Director

Christina Heineken Woodlee, Program Director

We are excited to welcome Christina Heineken Woodlee as the newest member of our Executive leadership. Christina has more than 15 years of experience in nonprofit administration and development. She has developed nationally recognized donor engagement programs – Women United, Emerging Leaders and Arise Project – for United Way. She spent 4 years as the Director of Leadership Affinity Groups at United Way of Central New Mexico, and 5 years as the Manager of Leadership Giving at Greater Twin Cities United Way. Prior to joining United Way, she worked at Discovery Creek Children’s Museum in Washington, DC, as the Special Events and Board Relations Manager. Most recently, Christina was the Director of Donor Relations at Perspectives Inc. in St. Louis Park. In this capacity she introduced an audience segmentation and donor acquisition strategy focused corporate women and millennials.

Christina is a graduate of the University of New Mexico with a Master Degree in Public Administration as well as an undergraduate degree in Sociology and Family Studies. She and her family live in the Twin Cities metro.

Welcome to Our Newest Board Members

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Five new people have joined our board of directors, and we’re excited to have them on the team!

Michael Friedman

Michael Friedman is an Assistant Vice President at Hays Companies in Minneapolis. Michael holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and minor in Business Administration from Minnesota State-Mankato. Michael enjoys spending his time with family, friends, and giving back to his community. Previously, he served as a youth hockey coach for the Mankato Hockey Association and Bloomington Jefferson Association.



Sharon Hughes

A native of Kansas, Sharon made Minnesota her home in 1995. Her professional career includes 25+ years of experience creating and executing communications and marketing strategies, as well as product and database development – primarily in the financial services and real estate industries. Sharon is SVP of Internal Communications at Ameriprise Financial, Inc which includes editorial planning for both employee and advisor audiences, content and video development, executive communications, strategic meetings management, and all communications systems and delivery functions. She has a BA from Concordia University in Marketing Management and is also Series 7 and 24 licensed. In her personal life, Sharon and her partner Jerry love traveling, cooking, running, bicycling, spending time with friends and family, and spoiling their beautiful golden retriever, Hazel Blue.


Jim Nikolai

Jim is a Vice President of State Government Relations at U.S. Bancorp in Minneapolis. In his role, Jim provides legislative advocacy in nine states and manages other political engagements between U.S. Bank and elected officials. Outside of U.S. Bank, Jim serves on the Board of Directors of St. Stephen’s Human Services and the Citizens League. Jim received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science and his master’s degree in Public Policy and Leadership from the University of St. Thomas. He was also a 2016-2017 Policy Fellow at the Humphrey School for Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Jim resides in West St. Paul with his wife, Jamie, and their sons, Andrew and Sam. In his free time, Jim enjoys running, exercise and reading.

Lisa Wilcox-Erhardt

Lisa is the Executive Vice President of Housing and Services for CommonBond Communities. She is passionate in her belief that affordable, safe and stable housing is foundational for building individual independence and success as well as strengthening communities and economic development.  Lisa served seven years working in city government as a city councilmember, committee member and she sat on the Board of Directors of the League of Minnesota Cities and MN Women in City Government.  Besides working in the public sector and the affordable housing industry, Lisa and her husband ran an insurance consultancy business in Minnesota for 5 years.  Lisa is a graduate of Virginia Wesleyan College – Virginia Beach, VA where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science.  In her free time, Lisa enjoys reading, cooking, and spending time with family and friends.

Welcome to our new board members!

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We’re excited to welcome three new members to our Board of Directors:

Randy Okan

Okan_HeadshotRandy is the Assistant Director of Finance at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis. Everyone has the same focus at Hyatt, to “care for people so they can be their best.” He is the founder of the Hyatt Minneapolis Chapter of HyPride, an LGBTQA  business resource group that supports one another, provides education/awareness for colleagues, works in the local community and provides an environment where you can bring 100% of your true self to work. Randy graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Wisconsin with a B.S. in Hotel and Restaurant Management. Recruited directly from college he has worked in various roles for Hyatt Hotels Corporation for the past 31 years. He volunteers for One Voice Mixed Chorus, The Aliveness project, and Out For Equity. Randy and his husband Dennis love traveling and relaxing at their cabin in Ely, MN.

Alecia Sanders

Alecia SandersAlecia Sanders is a Social Worker at Allina Health and Robbinsdale Area Schools. She is also a Psychiatric Associate at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview. Alecia holds both a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Deviance and a Master of Social Work in Clinical Mental Health and Health, Disability, and Aging from the University of Minnesota. Alecia enjoys working with adolescents and families in both the school and hospital settings. Serving on a nonprofit board has been a career goal and aligns with her passion. Alecia enjoys fishing, music, and spending time with family and friends.

Wanda Sigurdson

WandaWanda Sigurdson is a Senior Attorney in the Best Buy corporate legal department. Prior to joining Best Buy, Wanda spent thirteen years as an Associate General Counsel for the hospitality and marketing company, Carlson. Prior to that, Wanda spent two years with Ernst & Young International proving legal counsel in their Moscow, Russia office. Wanda also volunteers with the Volunteer Network of Hennepin County.

Before enrolling in law school, Wanda worked as a social worker, in her home state of Montana, in a variety of roles serving youth and teens including serving as a juvenile probably officer, and working at a juvenile detention center and group home. Wanda continues to apply her interest in social services by working as a client services volunteer for Interface Outreach and Community Partners (IOCP) in Plymouth, MN. IOCP provides holistic support for families including education, housing and clothing assistance, employment counseling and a food shelf.

Wanda recently became an “empty nester” when the last of her three children left for college, and is anxious to use her newfound free time to serve on the Bridges for Young board. In the remainder of her free time, Wanda enjoys reading, running, trying new restaurants and recipes with friends, and traveling with her husband, Todd.