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DU’s Bridge Project making a difference

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DENVER-- Growing up -- who was your safety net? Maybe it was a teacher, a counselor or a coach. For kids that grow up in public housing, finding that connection can be tough.

Thanks to a University of Denver program, there is a bridge between these communities and much-needed support. Kids are finding that one person to believe in them as DU is transforming passion into purpose.

“I would compare it to a book that Molly gave me for my graduation: Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss,” said Diana Flamenco. “I still have it!”

The book reads, “Whenever you'll fly, you'll be best of best! Wherever you go, you will top all the rest…”

For Diana Flamenco, the pages on the book have come to life.

“Your life doesn't come out like you planned it,” Flamenco said.

In high school, Diana found many roads led to dead ends. “I felt like I didn't have any guidance,” Flamenco said.

Then, she found help.

“I know I could trust them, I know they're going to be there unconditionally,” Flamenco said.

She’s talking about DU’s “The Bridge Project.”

“We provide educational and social and emotional support services for children and families who live in and around Denver's public housing neighborhoods,” said Executive Director of the Bridge Project Molly Calhoun.

The Bridge Project is a community initiative of DU's graduate school of social work. Calhoun says from the time these kids start school in kindergarten through college, Bridge is there to help.

“We have staff that have been at our sites for 15 years. So our kids can come back after they graduate ... and there's Betty still there, still providing the same unconditional support,” Calhoun said.

“They were always there, no matter what,” Flamenco said.

Thanks to a Bridge Project scholarship and years of mentoring, Flamenco made it through college, one of the first in her family. Her entire family showed for graduation day.

“Aunts, uncles, cousins, I was happy that they didn't have a limit on tickets,” Flamenco said. “My mom and my dad fight for my diploma!”

Her life road eventually led back to bridge ... this time, as a teacher. “I just feel really blessed and I want to give back,” Flamenco said.

Calhoun said Diana is one of many bridge success stories born from a community that often doesn't get much credit. “Our kids our graduating from high schools, they're getting PhDs, they are starting med school,” Calhoun said.

While their road may not have been direct, plot lines like Diana's proved to be storybook quality. As the Dr. Seuss book says, “And you will succeed! Yes, you will indeed … Kid, you will move mountains!”

Diana is pursuing her Masters degree in social work at the University of Denver.

The Bridge Project operates on-site out of five of Denver's public housing units. They help the kids after school and in the summer with everything from very basic needs ... to tutoring, counseling ... and they make room for fun, too.

They operate their day-to-day program like a nonprofit, dependent on volunteers and community donations.

If you'd like to learn more about the Bridge Project, visit their website here.

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