One of the founding principles of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation and its Cleveland replication NewBridge Cleveland Center for Arts and Technology is that environment shapes behavior. When we dismiss people as victims they internalize it. Poverty and despair become self-fulfilling prophecies when we allow individuals to succumb to circumstantial barriers because they have not been born into opportunity.
Why shouldn’t a ninth grader study photography using state-of-the-art camera equipment or learn to record his own music using industry-grade technology? Why shouldn’t an unemployed or underemployed adult be able to graduate from cost-free training that empowers her to find a career in one of Cleveland’s premier hospitals instead of another dead-end job?
These are the questions that the tireless staff at NewBridge wake up every morning to answer. Never in my life have I seen such a dedicated team of people share the same philosophy to drive their daily mission. Often those who have not heard about NewBridge question the cohabitation of arts programs for high school students and medical training programs for adults. In her June 20 column about NewBridge, the Plain Dealer’s Sharon Broussard explained it best: “Today’s high school dropout often becomes tomorrow’s unemployed or underemployed adult.” In this sense NewBridge is both reactive to the perils of an outdated economy and proactive to the risk of undereducated adolescents. Every NewBridge student—young, old or middle-aged—is an asset worthy of success, whether that means finishing high school or getting training that will secure a good-paying job.
Returning to Cleveland for the summer from college in Washington, DC, I know that the Cleveland Foundation has facilitated an opportunity for me and my fellow interns unlike any other in the country. Observation has shown me that Cleveland is a unique place for nonprofit organizations. We have an unparalleled stock of superb agencies in Cuyahoga County, but the region still maintains an atmosphere of cooperation and access. I have been able to harness connections from previous internships to explore new partnerships for NewBridge. Executive Director Jeff Johnson and NewBridge staff members have taught me that the Information Age means new capabilities for nonprofits to capture data and measure success. I have started building a comprehensive database for youth program student records. I have also helped coordinate the adult program’s Class of 2012 graduation and its new classes, which began this month.
With a distinctly 21st century mentality, NewBridge and its affiliates in other cities are pioneers in the Knowledge Economy, recognizing the transition that must take place from America’s past. This transition also means a new way of thinking about how nonprofit organizations should operate. On Saturday, July 28, NewBridge will graduate its second phlebotomy technician class and inaugural pharmacy technician class. This amazing group of newly-minted medical professionals will not rest once they are handed their diplomas. Reinvigorated by knowing their own strength, they each have their eyes set on new career goals with a proud and supportive alma mater on their résumés.
Each week we use this space to give each of our interns the chance to reflect on their internship experiences. Thomas Corrigan, a sophomore at Georgetown University, is placed at NewBridge Cleveland Center for Arts & Technology. Thomas will design tools to be used in program evaluation and assessment for NewBridge’s Youth and Adult Programs.