JACKSONVILLE, Fla – It's a program that's been changing lives in our community for more than 30 years. The Bridge of Northeast Florida is helping young people, some at risk, stay out of trouble and learn job readiness skills, life skills and much more all while having fun.
Dance class brings a smile to Makayla Golden's face. She's a freshman at Paxon High School but it's dance class at The Bridge of Northeast Florida that gets her excited.
"The bridge is like my second home away from school it's my home that I go to at night. It's a fun place to be. The interaction between the staff and kids it's really fun," says Golden.
Dance class is after school and the group performs all year round and while Makayla's sharpening her dance skills, she's also learning about life
"It keeps your mind focused on other things, priorities set and goals set, you don't have time to think about everything else because you're so excited to get ready to preform," says Golden.
It's also like a second family, Mary Bishop is the program director and you see these two have a very close relationship. Makayla's grandmother reached out to Bishop when she was looking for a summer activity for her granddaughter. That was two years ago and now Makayla comes to The Bridge all year. Bishop has worked here for 17 years. She's just as committed to all the kids.
"When they come through the door it's that welcoming smile and asking them how their day has been and if there's something that you can do to help them and kids resonate with that," says Bishop.
For some of the kids at The Bridge this is a second chance to get it right. They might have been suspended from school or gotten into trouble at home so this is opportunity to try something new. The expectations are high and they're held accountable for their actions good or bad.
"When we walk away from them they may not like what we tell them, the truth. They know that we're going to be honest with them and when you give kids honesty whether they want it or not they're going to keep coming back," says Bishop
There's really something for every student and that was the goal when The Bridge was founded 35 years ago.
"We offer so many programs for students to come and have a safe place and when the kids come here and know that the staff is welcoming and inviting it helps. No other place you know can give marital arts, dance, tutorials and job readiness all in one place at the same time," says Bishop
There's a special concert, this weekend and all of the proceeds go to the Bridge.
It's the second annual Jazz on the Bridge this Saturday Valentine's Day at the Jacksonville Public Library. It starts at 7 p.m. and lasts until 11 p.m. Jazz Violinist Jaye Davis, Marcus Johnson, and Alyson Williams will perform. Food and Drinks are included in the ticket price of just $75.
For more information go to: