Executive Leadership Team
Michelle Basham, Executive Director
Michelle brings to The Bridge for Youth more than 20 years of experience in the public and nonprofit sectors. She has started and led organizations focused on runaway and homeless youth, child welfare, racial disparities and strengthening families since the early 1990s. In 1993, she started Avenues for Homeless Youth, one of the first programs in Minnesota for homeless youth and an organization still in existence today. Between 2001 and 2008, she worked in progressively higher positions at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, eventually leading department priorities regarding racial disparities in health care, healthcare reform, licensing regulations and child maltreatment. She left the Department in 2008 to serve as the Executive Director for FamilyWise (formerly Genesis II for Families) and between 2008 and 2013, led a dramatic organizational turnaround including the organization more than doubling in size, completely rebranding and merging into it several smaller nonprofits and programs. Michelle also co-founded the Minnesota Runaway and Homeless Youth Coalition in 1998 and the Nonprofit Emerging Leaders Academy in 2009. She also served as a Vice President at CommonBond Communities and as the CEO for the YWCA of Delaware.
Michelle holds an undergraduate degree in communications and organizational development, a graduate degree in public administration and a law degree in addition to having previously served as a Fellow at the Humphrey Institute Public Policy Forum where she did her group work on women and people of color in political leadership. She brings to the Bridge her education, experience and more than anything, a deep and unwavering passion for protecting and serving runaway and homeless youth.
Angela Alvarez, Human Resources Director
Angela Alvarez graduated with a BA in psychology from Minnesota State University at Mankato and an M.A. in counseling and psychological practices from St. Mary’s University in Minneapolis. She started as a Youth & Family Counselor intern in the fall of 2011, before joining the staff full time in the Emergency Shelter Program. With a passion for organization, policies and supporting BFY staff, Angela made the transition from direct staff to administration staff when the HR Coordinator position opened up. Angela was promoted quickly to HR Manager and was recently promoted to HR Director where she oversees the daily HR functions for staff, interns and volunteers. Angela enjoys reading, writing, traveling, the outdoors, being a sports fan and spending time with friends and family.
Jennifer Harding, Director of Development
Jenny brings more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit development and fundraising to The Bridge for Youth. 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 Gift 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 hanging out with friends and family including her rescue dog Jackson.
Joan Countryman, Program Director
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 YSMN.org.In addition to a successful 14-year tenure managing programs for Episcopal Community Services, Joan founded the youth program at Cornerstone Advocacy. Joan has led several nonprofit programs in areas including domestic violence, sexual assault and youth homelessness. Her accomplishments include developing a statewide model mobilizing volunteers to lend assistance to homeless families and those living in poverty. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology and a Master level degree in counseling.
The Bridge for Youth’s Board of Directors
Scott Thomas-Forss, Board Chair
Minneapolis Federal Reserve, Assistant Vice President
Amy Asche, Board Vice-Chair
UPS, Sales Training Manager
Timothy Bechtold, Board Treasurer
Anna Waters, Board Development Committee Chair
Korn Ferry, Principal
Mark Ostlund, Board Governance Committee Chair
Gavin, Winters, Thiemann and Long, Attorney
Enterprise Technologies, Executive Vice-President
Xcel Energy, Assistant General Counsel
Thomson Reuters, Vice President
Elavon, Inc. Vice President of Strategic Planning
Thrivent Financial, Corporate Recruiter
Community Representative, Office of Congressman Keith Ellison