How Meharry Medical College's BRIDGE program is lifting families out of poverty | Opinion

While many local programs tend to be one-dimensional, BRIDGE utilizes a two-generational, holistic approach.


Meharry Medical College's BRIDGE to Success works to end poverty (tennessean.com)


Tarryn Bell Guest columnist


Meharry Medical College's BRIDGE to Success works to end poverty (tennessean.com)


While Music City tops the charts for economic growth, Nashville’s low-income families still wrestle mightily with the curse of generational poverty.


As the chasm between privileged and underprivileged expands, data shows that breaking these chains will be no simple task.


Consider the 2020 report by Metro Social Services ranking Nashville ninth in the nation for students living in poverty. That’s a stark contrast to our “it city” prosperity and a wake-up call for us all.


Data show that minority families are falling — and staying — farthest behind. The poverty rate in Nashville’s African-American communities is 25%, a full quarter of the demographic, compared to 15% for the general population. That’s compounded by Nashville’s ranking in the bottom 5% for upward mobility when compared to 2,700 U.S. counties in a recent Harvard study.


As companies move to town, a majority of the jobs created go to non-Nashvillians. Despite Davidson County’s population boom, local working-class families are increasingly packing up and moving out of town. With half the city’s workforce making less than $35,000 a year, the burden of making ends meet becomes heavier as the cost of living rises.

Meharry steps in

While many in our city thrive, the families most in need of climbing prosperity’s ladder are being crushed by age-old burdens. This dilemma requires a novel approach, as “business as usual” continues to perpetuate poverty’s curse.


Meharry Medical College designed the Building Resources and Initiatives to Develop Growth and Enrichment (BRIDGE) to Success Program to provide families with necessities that will change their dynamic and ensure their freedom from generational barriers. The ultimate goal is to create a legacy of economic security -- a new tradition to pass from one generation to the next.


While many local programs tend to be one-dimensional, BRIDGE utilizes a two-generational, holistic approach. All programming, services and workshops are centered around education, workforce development, health/well-being and social capital. BRIDGE caters to both the child and their parents to guarantee the entire family receives support and access to resources that may seem unattainable.

Offering hope

Along with greater odds for success, BRIDGE offers a priceless fringe benefit for participating families: Hope. Rather than furthering long-held patterns, Meharry’s BRIDGE Program is equipping families to create and sustain change.

From access to oral and health care and community engagement to educational support and professional development, BRIDGE to Success nourishes the family from the inside out.

This state-funded program provides aid to Nashville families who have children enrolled in a Community Achieves middle or high school within Metro Nashville Public Schools, at no cost. All children are required to qualify for free or reduced lunch. Families must reside in Davidson County and meet specific eligibility requirements. If interested, visit www. bridgesatmeharry.org.

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