Summit nonprofit reaches out to local teens

SUMMIT, NJ — On Saturday, March 4, Bridges Outreach, a local Summit nonprofit organization, held its 8th annual Teens Tackle Homelessness Conference at Kent Place School. The conference was created by high school students to introduce the topic of homelessness to their peers and the work by Bridges Outreach to connect the homeless with the rest of the community.
“These young organizers are leading the way in creating compelling, socially relevant content,” Summit public information officer Amy Cairns said in an email on Feb. 21.

According to a Bridges Outreach press release, speakers at the conference included formerly homeless young men and women who were sheltered in the emergency residency program at the Newark YMCA and Covenant House. They shared intimate details of their personal experiences and the struggles they faced in their everyday lives when they were homeless. They also designed socially interactive workshops to illustrate the hardships faced by people living in poverty and the challenges to overcome them.

“At the Bridges’ Teens Tackle Homelessness Conference, myself along with several other teens from the area will run games and activities to educate people about homelessness,” Peter Morariu of Westfield told LocalSource in an email on March 3. “The event will also include speeches and presentations from current and formerly homeless individuals. I got involved with this organization after attending a conference last year and going on several Bridges runs through my high school’s community service club.

“In my opinion, educating teens about issues like homelessness is important to the future prosperity and success of our local and global communities. Although homelessness may not directly affect everyone that attends the conference, it is definitely an imperative issue to learn about as it affects everyone in one way or another. Additionally, I hope that attendees of the conference will make future efforts to do what they can to help solve the homelessness problem in their local communities. Although I have never presented to teens before on issues like this outside an academic realm, I’m excited for the event, and I hope that teens leave with a hope to take action and help solve the homelessness problem that plagues many Americans today.”

Each year, Bridges Outreach selects a theme for their annual Teens Tackle Homelessness conference.

“The teen Steering Committee chose ‘Changing Perspectives’ for this year’s theme,” Executive Director of Bridges Outreach Beth Tulloch said in a March 3 email.

“The conference will begin with a panel of three teens from the Newark Y’s Emergency Residential Program, each of whom will briefly tell their story and then take questions from the audience. The students will then split into smaller groups for a series of four interactive workshops modeled on games that are designed to illustrate the hardships and challenges that homeless people face. The conference will close with a video about Jessie, a boy from Covenant House, who will play his cello for us and then take questions.”

According to a Feb. 21 Bridges Outreach press release, the student Steering Committee is comprised of more than 30 young people from more than 15 area high schools.