Southwest H.S. students raise money, awareness for The Bridge for Youth

(Grace McEnry and Harper Svee)

Southwest High School seniors Harper Svee and Grace McEnry are bridge builders.

As part of the school’s annual BLAST (Be Loving and Sharing Together) event, the students led a month-long fundraising and awareness campaign in December for The Bridge for Youth, an Uptown-based organization that provides counseling and other services for youth and families.

The campaign raised more than $10,000 for the nonprofit.

While the dollar figure is impressive, Svee and McEnry said their main mission was to inform students about resources available to them when they are struggling with mental health issues or family problems.

They also spread the message that if each student gave a little, collectively they could have a big impact.

Besides creating an online fundraising portal for The Bridge, they organized classroom presentations, made a video about the nonprofit featuring interviews with staff members and put up posters about the organization all over the school.

They visited English classes in each grade for weekly presentations to discuss the nonprofit’s work throughout December.

They also informed students about the nonprofit’s new texting hotline — a 24-hour service for teens and families staffed by Bridge staff and volunteers trained to help de-escalate crisis situations.

Svee and McEnry said it was important for them to connect with students and let them know that The Bridge was there for them if they needed help with mental health challenges.

“It was important for us to talk about issues that are often stigmatized,” McEnry said.

Svee said they wanted to let students know that mental health issues should be taken just as seriously as physical conditions.

Janet Hallaway, director of development and external relations for The Bridge, said she admired how hard the students worked on the project.

“BLAST did so much more than raise funds for The Bridge,” she said. “It pushed out a message about our services, particularly our new crisis text hotline, to kids across the southwest metro. Our hope is that if a kid is in crisis, they now they can text us for help. BLAST will have a long-lasting impact in our community.

The Bridge for Youth in the East Isles neighborhood focuses services on youth ages 10 to 17 who don’t have a safe place to call home. The organization provides a range of counseling and supportive services and has shelter beds for youth in Minneapolis and at a new 24-hour emergency shelter in Excelsior, which has six beds for youth.

It serves nearly 1,000 youth each year and is the largest provide of emergency and extended-stay shelter for children in crisis in the Twin Cities.

The organization’s board of directors also recently named Michelle Basham as its new executive director. She starts the job in February after serving as CEO of the YWCA of Delaware.