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Welcome to Dawn Davis, Program Director

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Dawn Davis has joined the Bridge for Youth as Program Director. She holds a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership, and a bachelor of science in Business Management from the University of Northwestern – St. Paul, MN.

“With Dawn’s extraordinary experience and proven record of success, she will be an excellent addition to the Bridge for Youth leadership team and be able to bring our programs to the next level,” Executive Director Michelle Basham said.

Dawn worked for Hennepin County Human Services & Public Health leading the operations and administrative infrastructure of the department.  She was responsible for a team of over 350 employees performing in eight lines of business that supported the department’s 4,000 employees. Her areas of oversight included: Staffing management; Integrated planning & analysis; Training and development; Data privacy practices; Contract management; Waivered services; Service authorization; and Shared office support.  Prior to her role with the county, Dawn spent 16 years  working with community-based nonprofits Pillsbury United Communities and EMERGE Community Development (EMERGE is a spin-off 501c3 from parent organization, Pillsbury United).  She has had a career leading nonprofit operations as well as program management.  Her nonprofit experience includes leading employment & training programs, permanent supportive and transitional housing, ex-offender & refugee services, financial literacy, welfare-to-work, transportation services, social enterprise businesses, emergency supports; expanding programs and achieving results.  Throughout her tenure, she has advanced into positions with increased levels of authority, leadership, and staffing responsibility.

Dawn has served in senior level leadership positions at Hennepin County including serving as the Senior Department Administrator and Area Manager, EMERGE where she served as Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer and Pillsbury United Communities where she served as a Division Director and Associate Director.  Throughout her career, she also has been active in groups including: Hennepin County Leadership Diversity Council Member/Liaison, Hennepin County Contract Governance Board, Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) Board Member, Fremont Community Health Services Board Member and Hennepin County Workforce Investment Board (WIB.)

Dawn’s outstanding work was recognized with a President’s Leadership Award from EMERGE (2011,) 40 Under Forty Award; Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal (2007) and an Excellence in Management Award from Pillsbury United Communities.

Dawn is passionate about working with organizations that are invested in providing holistic services to individuals; that seek to influence systems change, and that are responding to the unmet needs of families, youth, and children in our communities while also ensuring to strengthen organizational and operational infrastructure. Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, she moved to Minneapolis in 1996 and is a resident of North Minneapolis, a wife and mother of two daughters (Summyr and Tarran).

Welcome to our new board members!

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We’re excited to welcome three new members to our Board of Directors:

Randy Okan

Okan_HeadshotRandy is the Assistant Director of Finance at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis. Everyone has the same focus at Hyatt, to “care for people so they can be their best.” He is the founder of the Hyatt Minneapolis Chapter of HyPride, an LGBTQA  business resource group that supports one another, provides education/awareness for colleagues, works in the local community and provides an environment where you can bring 100% of your true self to work. Randy graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Wisconsin with a B.S. in Hotel and Restaurant Management. Recruited directly from college he has worked in various roles for Hyatt Hotels Corporation for the past 31 years. He volunteers for One Voice Mixed Chorus, The Aliveness project, and Out For Equity. Randy and his husband Dennis love traveling and relaxing at their cabin in Ely, MN.

Alecia Sanders

Alecia SandersAlecia Sanders is a Social Worker at Allina Health and Robbinsdale Area Schools. She is also a Psychiatric Associate at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview. Alecia holds both a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Deviance and a Master of Social Work in Clinical Mental Health and Health, Disability, and Aging from the University of Minnesota. Alecia enjoys working with adolescents and families in both the school and hospital settings. Serving on a nonprofit board has been a career goal and aligns with her passion. Alecia enjoys fishing, music, and spending time with family and friends.

Wanda Sigurdson

WandaWanda Sigurdson is a Senior Attorney in the Best Buy corporate legal department. Prior to joining Best Buy, Wanda spent thirteen years as an Associate General Counsel for the hospitality and marketing company, Carlson. Prior to that, Wanda spent two years with Ernst & Young International proving legal counsel in their Moscow, Russia office. Wanda also volunteers with the Volunteer Network of Hennepin County.

Before enrolling in law school, Wanda worked as a social worker, in her home state of Montana, in a variety of roles serving youth and teens including serving as a juvenile probably officer, and working at a juvenile detention center and group home. Wanda continues to apply her interest in social services by working as a client services volunteer for Interface Outreach and Community Partners (IOCP) in Plymouth, MN. IOCP provides holistic support for families including education, housing and clothing assistance, employment counseling and a food shelf.

Wanda recently became an “empty nester” when the last of her three children left for college, and is anxious to use her newfound free time to serve on the Bridges for Young board. In the remainder of her free time, Wanda enjoys reading, running, trying new restaurants and recipes with friends, and traveling with her husband, Todd.

Welcome, Gladys Estoista!

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Gladys headshotGladys Estoista has joined The Bridge for Youth as Finance and Operations Director. She holds a B.S. in Accounting from Ateneo de Davao University in the Philippines and an M.S. in Accounting from Colorado State University. She brings more than 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector to The Bridge for Youth. After graduate school, Gladys worked in public accounting with Carpenter Evert, a CPA firm prominent within the nonprofit sector. She has also worked for Project for Pride in Living, Inc. as their Accounting Manager and, more recently, for Greater Twin Cities United Way as their Assistant Controller. When her work and family schedule allowed, Gladys brought her experience to the classroom by teaching Accounting classes as an Adjunct Instructor at Rasmussen College.

As the Finance and Operations Director, Gladys will be responsible for leading and managing financial management, information technology, properties management and compliance functions.

Gladys likes to hang out at home with her family and watch her tween daughter try baking recipes. The family has adopted an underprivileged school in the Philippines where they send slightly used school supplies and clothing that they collect from friends and family here.

Local 9th grader creates PSA for The Bridge

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After she heard about the work we do to help out LGBT youth, a local high school student created a PSA to spread the word. Check it out!

BFY’s plans for rental housing for homeless youth featured in Southwest Journal

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The house at 2200 Emerson Ave S. in the East Isles neighborhood was the site of our emergency shelter program from 1975-2008. In 2014, all operations moved into our new facility across the street, leaving the old house empty. In November 2016, the city of Minnepolis adopted a new intentional communities land use plan, which opened up an exciting opportunity to repurpose the house as rental housing for 18-21 year old youth. Our plans for “Rita’s House,” an intentional community for formerly homeless youth are described in this Southwest Journal article.



Welcome New Board Members!

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We are pleased to welcome three new members to our Board of Directors.

KrisBlack_full body_quaretine Oberg
Kristine is a vice-president of strategic planning for Elavon, Inc., a subsidiary of U.S. Bank. She holds a B.A. in English from St. Olaf College, an M.A. in English Literature from University of Wisconsin and an M.S. in the Management of Technology from the University of Minnesota.  She serves on the board of the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and was formerly its treasurer. She volunteers in the GED program for YouthLink. Kristine is also a violist with the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and an avid cyclist. Kristine has three children, Will, Mara and Rachel, and lives in Bloomington.


Brittany PratherBrittany Prather -cropped
Brittany is a Recruiter a Thrivent Financial in Minneapolis where she partners with corporate hiring managers to bring in the best talent to the organization. She is also the Community Outreach Director on the Board for the Thrivent Young Professional’s Network. Brittany holds a B.A. in Communication Studies from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from Bethel University. It is her personal mission to enhance others’ lives through giving back to the best of her ability. Serving on the Bridge for Youth board aligns with her passion for outreach where she can contribute her HR, marketing and business skills.


SarSarah Sanchez1ah Sanchez
Sarah is a Community Representative in the district office of Congressman Keith Ellison where she has worked since May 2011. She is responsible for outreach related to women’s issues, youth development and education as well as federal casework with various agencies including the Department of Education, Department of Labor and the IRS. Sarah also has a passion for criminal justice reform and understanding the impact of incarceration on families and communities. She is originally from Chicago and came to Minnesota in 2009 as a transfer student from Arizona State University. She received her BS in Family Social Science with a minor in Family Violence Prevention from the University of Minnesota. Sarah enjoys cooking, reading, hiking in Minnesota’s state parks and playing tenor sax in a symphonic ensemble with her husband.

The Bridge for Youth Announces Hiring of Jennifer Harding as Director of Development

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Jennifer Harding

Jennifer Harding, Director of Development, The Bridge for Youth

The Bridge for Youth are pleased to announce that Jennifer Harding will be joining us as our new Director of Development! Jenny brings to The Bridge for Youth (Th Bridge) more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit development and fundraising. 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 Gifts 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 spending time with friends and family including her rescue dog Jackson. She is particularly passionate about child welfare, youth issues and social justice and is excited to be joining The Bridge! Jenny will be a great asset to The Bridge for Youth and its fundraising efforts, we look forward to her starting her new position in mid-August.

New Program Director Announced

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Joan Countryman, Program Director, The Bridge for Youth

The Bridge for Youth is pleased to announce the promotion of Joan Countryman from Program Manager to Program Director.

 In her new executive role, Joan is responsible for directing all agency programming and operations. This includes leading a staff of 45 and a volunteer team of 50.
Programs include:
  • Two Emergency Shelters located in Minneapolis and Chanhassen (20 beds)
  • 10-bed Transitional Living Program for older teens
  • Crisis Response Center including the fast-growing (612) 400-SAFE crisis text line and, a web app connecting youth with available, location-specific shelter beds.
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
“Joan’s 30 years of social service experience and her proven ability to deliver positive outcomes will serve The Bridge well.” said Michelle Basham, Executive Director. “Her expertise helps ensure that our programs are financially sustainable.”
In addition to a 14-year tenure managing programs for Episcopal Community Services, Joan founded the youth program at Cornerstone Advocacy.  Her accomplishments also include developing a statewide model mobilizing volunteers to lend assistance to homeless families and those living in poverty.
About The Bridge for Youth
 Founded in 1970, The Bridge for Youth provides safe shelter and support for runaway, homeless and abandoned youth, ages 10-17.Serving nearly 1,000 youth each year, The Bridge is the Twin Cities largest provider of emergency and extended-stay shelter for children in crisis in the Twin Cities with locations in Minneapolis and Chanhassen.  Additional services include walk-in and by-appointment counseling for youth and families, a new 24-hour crisis text line for teens and families called (612) 400-SAFE, and, a web app connecting at-risk youth with available, location-specific shelter beds and crisis services.