Franklin County Mayor David Alexander and County Commissioner Greg King recently visited with Franklin County students who are enrolled in the Bridge Program at Townsend School in Winchester.

King delivered a one-hour presentation on the topics of law enforcement and county government and answered children’s questions on Nov. 5.

Alexander spoke to program enrollees on Nov. 18 and talked about the differences between city, county, state, and federal government operations while answering dozens of questions.

“There’s nothing that will make you really think harder than a room full of children asking you questions about government,” Alexander said following his presentation. “Many of the children’s questions about the specifics of government were excellent and valid questions, and it makes you think about the way things should be.

“It was a lot of fun.”

According to Program Coordinator Lindsay Konrad, the Bridge Program is sponsored by the Franklin County Prevention Coalition and was implemented to help at-risk third through eighth graders in a number of areas, including life skills, academic enrichment and various activities that promote self-image improvement while encouraging positive action.

One focus of the Bridge Program is to bridge relationships between students and their families while also forming relationships between student enrollees and key figures in the community, Konrad said.

Another major goal of the Bridge Program is addressing the problem of delinquency in Franklin County, and program representatives partner with school guidance counselors, Franklin County Jail officials and the Juvenile Court, Konrad said.

“Many of the children in the Bridge Program have parents who are incarcerated, and these children often live with grandparents or other guardians, and it can be overwhelming for these caretakers when their children exhibit behavioral problems and other negative traits due to their family situations,” Konrad said. “We offer these caretakers and guardians the tools they need to deal with these situations while also working directly with the children.”

Using a 21st century learning model, the Bridge Program has seen positive results with the children who are enrolled.

“Many of the parents and guardians of the program have said that they have seen improvements in the children who attend the program,” Konrad said.

Enrollees’ family members also have free access to an online resource called “Strengthening Families,” a site that provides family members with tools and classes that can make a difference for struggling students and their guardians.

Program representatives can also refer students to Health Connect and Centerstone addiction-recovery and counseling services if more serious intervention is needed, Konrad said.

Located at Townsend School in Winchester, the Bridge Program provides a number of services for enrollees and their families, including tutoring, parenting workshops, and conflict-resolution techniques.

The program also offers Thanksgiving and Christmas activities, including a formal family meal and a monthly event titled “Friday Night Done Right,” which brings families and siblings together with Bridge Program participants.

The Bridge Program also partners with Camp Rain, a youth life-improvement program, and offers summer retreats for enrollees and their entire families. 

Anyone interested in learning more about the Bridge Program or with questions on how to enroll their children is urged to call Konrad at 931-636-5357.

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