After passionately advancing the Bridges Together mission for over 20 years, founder Andrea Fonte Weaver formally created the nonprofit organization in 2012.
Andrea always had a special place in her heart for elders and children. When she was studying gerontology at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, she learned about intergenerational (IG) programs. For Andrea, that was an “ah ha!” moment, igniting a career spark to bring generations together.
In 1991, Andrea received a grant that enabled her to work as an IG specialist and launch what would become “Bridges: Growing Together” in her hometown of Sudbury, Massachusetts. The basis for what would become the BT model is small-group collaboration between two older adults and a group of children that focuses on shared experiences and interactive learning. Throughout the grant term, Andrea designed, implemented, and evaluated a variety of unique educational programs. During this time, she also completed a master’s degree in intergenerational studies at Wheelock College in Boston.
Over the next ten years, Andrea enthusiastically shared her expertise in the IG field with a wide range of professional organizations. She taught Bridges in many communities, consulted on IG programs and became a thought leader and visionary in the Massachusetts Intergenerational Network.
Overwhelmingly positive feedback from students, parents, and seniors encouraged the Sudbury schools superintendent and the senior center director to implement Bridges in all fourth-grade classrooms in the district. Along with the school’s curriculum specialist, Andrea documented Bridges in great detail. She developed a training program so that Bridges would become an independent program that could be entrusted to others.
Word spread of this award-winning program that empowered seniors and children alike, and other local communities asked to purchase the Bridges program. By 2010, In Sudbury alone there were more than 125 senior volunteers from a dozen communities on the volunteer roster. Individuals began contacting Andrea, offering to help spread the program. She decided to harness the energy.
Bridges Together (BT) was incorporated in April 2012 as a not-for-profit charitable organization. In just two years, the organization has achieved significant milestones:
- BT now offers three educational and innovative program curricula for children in preschool through grade 8.
- More than 10,000 people have participated in these programs over the last two decades.
- During 2014-2015, more than 20 communities will be implementing BT programs.
- BT has emerged as the leader in IG programming in Massachusetts, developing a clearinghouse of IG resources and offering trainings for professionals.