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Welcome, Gladys Estoista!

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Gladys headshotGladys Estoista has joined The Bridge for Youth as Finance and Operations Director. She holds a B.S. in Accounting from Ateneo de Davao University in the Philippines and an M.S. in Accounting from Colorado State University. She brings more than 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector to The Bridge for Youth. After graduate school, Gladys worked in public accounting with Carpenter Evert, a CPA firm prominent within the nonprofit sector. She has also worked for Project for Pride in Living, Inc. as their Accounting Manager and, more recently, for Greater Twin Cities United Way as their Assistant Controller. When her work and family schedule allowed, Gladys brought her experience to the classroom by teaching Accounting classes as an Adjunct Instructor at Rasmussen College.

As the Finance and Operations Director, Gladys will be responsible for leading and managing financial management, information technology, properties management and compliance functions.

Gladys likes to hang out at home with her family and watch her tween daughter try baking recipes. The family has adopted an underprivileged school in the Philippines where they send slightly used school supplies and clothing that they collect from friends and family here.

Local 9th grader creates PSA for The Bridge

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After she heard about the work we do to help out LGBT youth, a local high school student created a PSA to spread the word. Check it out!

BFY’s plans for rental housing for homeless youth featured in Southwest Journal

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The house at 2200 Emerson Ave S. in the East Isles neighborhood was the site of our emergency shelter program from 1975-2008. In 2014, all operations moved into our new facility across the street, leaving the old house empty. In November 2016, the city of Minnepolis adopted a new intentional communities land use plan, which opened up an exciting opportunity to repurpose the house as rental housing for 18-21 year old youth. Our plans for “Rita’s House,” an intentional community for formerly homeless youth are described in this Southwest Journal article.



Welcome New Board Members!

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We are pleased to welcome three new members to our Board of Directors.

KrisBlack_full body_quaretine Oberg
Kristine is a vice-president of strategic planning for Elavon, Inc., a subsidiary of U.S. Bank. She holds a B.A. in English from St. Olaf College, an M.A. in English Literature from University of Wisconsin and an M.S. in the Management of Technology from the University of Minnesota.  She serves on the board of the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and was formerly its treasurer. She volunteers in the GED program for YouthLink. Kristine is also a violist with the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and an avid cyclist. Kristine has three children, Will, Mara and Rachel, and lives in Bloomington.


Brittany PratherBrittany Prather -cropped
Brittany is a Recruiter a Thrivent Financial in Minneapolis where she partners with corporate hiring managers to bring in the best talent to the organization. She is also the Community Outreach Director on the Board for the Thrivent Young Professional’s Network. Brittany holds a B.A. in Communication Studies from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from Bethel University. It is her personal mission to enhance others’ lives through giving back to the best of her ability. Serving on the Bridge for Youth board aligns with her passion for outreach where she can contribute her HR, marketing and business skills.


SarSarah Sanchez1ah Sanchez
Sarah is a Community Representative in the district office of Congressman Keith Ellison where she has worked since May 2011. She is responsible for outreach related to women’s issues, youth development and education as well as federal casework with various agencies including the Department of Education, Department of Labor and the IRS. Sarah also has a passion for criminal justice reform and understanding the impact of incarceration on families and communities. She is originally from Chicago and came to Minnesota in 2009 as a transfer student from Arizona State University. She received her BS in Family Social Science with a minor in Family Violence Prevention from the University of Minnesota. Sarah enjoys cooking, reading, hiking in Minnesota’s state parks and playing tenor sax in a symphonic ensemble with her husband.

The Bridge for Youth Announces Hiring of Jennifer Harding as Director of Development

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Jennifer Harding

Jennifer Harding, Director of Development, The Bridge for Youth

The Bridge for Youth are pleased to announce that Jennifer Harding will be joining us as our new Director of Development! Jenny brings to The Bridge for Youth (Th Bridge) more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit development and fundraising. Her experience includes having served as the Development Director at the Children’s Law Center, MELD and WATCH. In addition, she has served as a Gifts Officer for Augustana Care, the Associate Director of Corporate Giving for the Guthrie Theater and Development Manager at the Page Education Foundation among other positions. Her wide-ranging experience includes consulting with and working for organizations committed to legal services, human services and education. Jenny also has volunteered in various capacities in the nonprofit sector. Jenny holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Dartmouth College. When she is not at work, Jenny enjoys spending time with friends and family including her rescue dog Jackson. She is particularly passionate about child welfare, youth issues and social justice and is excited to be joining The Bridge! Jenny will be a great asset to The Bridge for Youth and its fundraising efforts, we look forward to her starting her new position in mid-August.

New Program Director Announced

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Joan Countryman, Program Director, The Bridge for Youth

The Bridge for Youth is pleased to announce the promotion of Joan Countryman from Program Manager to Program Director.

 In her new executive role, Joan is responsible for directing all agency programming and operations. This includes leading a staff of 45 and a volunteer team of 50.
Programs include:
  • Two Emergency Shelters located in Minneapolis and Chanhassen (20 beds)
  • 10-bed Transitional Living Program for older teens
  • Crisis Response Center including the fast-growing (612) 400-SAFE crisis text line and, a web app connecting youth with available, location-specific shelter beds.
Since joining The Bridge in 2013, Joan has held significant roles in the organization including Emergency Shelter Manager and Manager of Outreach and Innovation. Joan recently led The Bridge’s successful roll out of (612) 400-SAFE and
“Joan’s 30 years of social service experience and her proven ability to deliver positive outcomes will serve The Bridge well.” said Michelle Basham, Executive Director. “Her expertise helps ensure that our programs are financially sustainable.”
In addition to a 14-year tenure managing programs for Episcopal Community Services, Joan founded the youth program at Cornerstone Advocacy.  Her accomplishments also include developing a statewide model mobilizing volunteers to lend assistance to homeless families and those living in poverty.
About The Bridge for Youth
 Founded in 1970, The Bridge for Youth provides safe shelter and support for runaway, homeless and abandoned youth, ages 10-17.Serving nearly 1,000 youth each year, The Bridge is the Twin Cities largest provider of emergency and extended-stay shelter for children in crisis in the Twin Cities with locations in Minneapolis and Chanhassen.  Additional services include walk-in and by-appointment counseling for youth and families, a new 24-hour crisis text line for teens and families called (612) 400-SAFE, and, a web app connecting at-risk youth with available, location-specific shelter beds and crisis services.


BFY’s “So What if I Am?” Stays Strong after 20 years

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franEvery Tuesday evening for the past 20 plus years, Twin City’s LGBTQ+ youth have met and been supported by a team of BFY LGBTQ+ specialists.

Currently, Fran Drazan and Sawyer Franklin run the group. Recently, they shared their thoughts and vision for the group.

What is your general role as a co – facilitator?

We are there to provide resources and knowledge when needed specific to the needs of LGBTQ youth.

sawyerWhy do you think it has been successful for so long?

Consistency. So What if I Am? has stayed connected to its roots and the goal of providing a safe space for LGBTQ youth to build connection and community with one another. It is so important for LGBTQ youth to have a space to simply be, so we work hard on making youth feel comfortable to be vulnerable and have fun with each other. There has been numerous times youth have come to So What if I Am? and told the group they didn’t have any friends or a support system before coming in.


What do you see LGTBQ kids struggling with today?
School, bullies, family conflict, homelessness, drugs and alcohol, safe sex, healthy relationships and friendships.



How is this support group different than others? Are there other groups out there?
So What if I Am? is dedicated to assisting LGBTQ youth in finding community with one-another, whereas some support groups focus on educating youth about large-scale issues and becoming activists. Both are important. The some-what laid back structure of So What if I Am? allows us as co-facilitators and the youth to discuss complex topics and issues that are affecting them in day-to-day life.
How do you see this group growing?
As per the youths request, So What if I Am? will soon be going on more outings. Some ideas the youth have had is going Quatrefoil Library or bowling.
Youth supporting each other even further. Youth are taking lead in creating an open space for each other – they continue to ask each other preferred pronouns and names.

If you are interested in joining our group or learning more, please click here!

The Bridge Adds New Board Members

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The Bridge for youth welcomed three new members this year to it’s Board of Directors.  “These individuals bring a wealth of experience in marketing, business development and technology and will help guide The Bridge as it continues to be a key resource in The Twin Cities for kids in crisis, “says Board Chair Scott Thomas-Forss,” We are excited to have their passion for helping the community and young people on our team.”

Welcome to all!

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Amy Asche

Amy has been employed at UPS for 15 years with various roles in sales, sales training, customer solutions and sales operations.

“As a board member, its’ important to me that we continue to expand a greater level of awareness to the issues that face our youth in our communities and how the great work that happens at The Bridge positively impacts so many young lives and families, ” Asche says, ” I am looking forward to being a part of an amazing group of community leaders focused on making a difference.”




Zoe Stern

Zoe Stern

Zoe Stern is the Associate Director for WE day Minnesota.  Prior to working for Free the Children she worked at Jewish Family and Children’s Service in fundraising and program development.  As a home grown Minnesotan, Zoe is excited and proud to be a new member of The Bridge board and looks forward to helping Minnesota youth.





anna waters

Anna Waters

Anna Waters brings over 15 years of experience in helping organizations enhance the effectiveness of their executives and leaders.  She currently works collaboratively with Korn Ferry’s clients and internal partners to effectively manage executive assessment and development engagements.

“It is a privilege to participate in something so relevant. All kids deserve to feel safe and if they don’t, it is our responsibility to make sure we have the support systems in place for them. I can’t wait to contribute to this endeavor, “says Waters about her new appointment as a new board member.