The Norman Transcript

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October 10, 2013

Program provides assistance, home to area teens in need

NORMAN — “Sidney” is a formerly homeless youth who found shelter through the Bridges Norman program. She attends high school, works, pays rent and is rebuilding her life.

“I’ve been at Bridges for eight months now,” said Sidney, 17. “To most of the kids here, it’s pretty important to have this safe environment.”

Without Bridges, Sidney said she would be bouncing from couch to couch, always in transition, always looking for the next safe place to stay. That uncertainty affected her school attendance, and she had little hope of graduating high school.

Since being at Bridges, life has gotten a lot better for the young woman.

“I’ve improved with my school work and attendance,” she said. “I’m hoping to go to college, maybe do something with the law.”

Sidney is just one of many continuing success stories for Bridges, which is a family crisis living center.

“About 90 percent of our kids over the last five years have gone on to some kind of higher ed,” Bridges Director Debra Krittenbrink said.

The support provided through mentorship and tutoring helps students stay in school and get their high school degrees and beyond. But the program also is about students learning to take care of themselves.

“To be in our program is really hard,” Krittenbrink said. “They have to have a job and keep their grades up. They support themselves. You have to be really mature and focused to succeed in this program.”

Safety is an issue for these vulnerable youth, many of whom have been traumatized in the past.

“In April and May, when we had the tornadoes, I was living here,” Sidney said. “That was pretty intense because we don’t really have a storm shelter. We have the student center, but if it was a big storm, we probably wouldn’t be safe. I don’t like tornadoes, so it was terrifying for me.”

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