Bridge Conference 2023 Highlights—Forging Brighter Futures

Conference attendees participating in Seeds of Peace Unity art project

What an event! Together, we set out to Reflect, Connect, and Reimagine our work to advocate and uplift the young people around the state of Washington. With our collective wisdom and knowledge, we achieved our goal. Now, we have a rejuvenated pathway to Forging Brighter Futures

Where are you rooted? 

On Bridge day one, we opened the conference with a powerful message from our keynote speaker, Melannie Denise Cunningham. Her talk centered on our foundation and how we show up for ourselves and others.

Ms. Melannie challenged us to reflect on our upbringing and on the cycles of socialization that we are passing on to the next generation. Presenters and attendees alike embraced this concept to learn and unlearn for connection as humans and as ambassadors in the youth development field. The seeds we plant today in young people will flourish as they become leaders.

This year’s two-day Bridge Conference offered over 40 different sessions, providing attendees with strategies to think, talk, and act in new ways. This message flowed into our systems-change conversation. Policymakers and field leaders convened to discuss the challenges we face in youth development. One theme that continued to arise was unintentional silos. We don’t often lean on each other as providers and leaders when we need support. 

How do we mobilize our collective?

Collectively, our goal was to reimagine the ways of approaching issues in youth development. The call to action at Bridge was to explore how we shift to multi-dimensional thinking rather than single-focus thinking. How can larger organizations share resources with smaller organizations? How can we source funding so that if one organization cannot use it, the funding stays within our underserved communities? 

In breakout sessions focused on reflection, youth development thought leaders outlined plans to continue the conversation post-conference. Presenters and attendees ended day two energized to continue the work together, connected with one goal–elevating our young people. 

Washington State Senator Yasmin Trudeau joined us in our closing session. She discussed how we can mobilize the youth development sector to move us toward our goal of building sustainable systems. Her advice was to contact your representative and make your position known. Washington’s legislative session begins in January.

Presenters and attendees left feeling full and energized to continue this vital work to advocate for young people in our communities. 

As we go forth in Forging Brighter Futures, we have our Bridge community to reflect, connect, and reimagine our work in youth development.