NewBridge Cleveland exists to help residents and at-risk youth in some of Cleveland’s most challenged neighborhoods reach their full educational and economic potential. NewBridge uses market-driven job training and educational arts programs to help build a stronger and more vibrant community.
We sat down with Maya Lyles, Director of Academic Affairs, to learn more about the work going on at NewBridge and what sparks her passion. Lyles began her nonprofit career at the National Center for Arts and Technology in Pittsburgh, an affiliate of Manchester Bidwell, the model from which NewBridge was born. When she moved home to Cleveland, she began working at NewBridge to continue doing what she loves: helping students reach their full potentials.
How did the mission of NewBridge Cleveland develop?
NewBridge is modeled after Pittsburgh’s Manchester Bidwell corporation. Manchester Bidwell has been around for fifty years. The founder, Bill Strickland, was a disconnected youth who was failing out of the Pittsburgh public schools. Through the discovery of ceramics and his art teacher encouraging him to apply to college, he went on to graduate with honors. Bill attributes all of his success to ceramics and the experiential learning reconnecting him to the educational experience.
Manchester Bidwell is comprised of four organizations. Bidwell Training Center is an adult vocational center that trains students in market-driven career areas. Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild is an after school visual arts based youth program. The program uses visual arts to build students self-esteem and identity. Bill wanted that program because he attributes ceramics to saving his life. The third is the National Center for Arts and Technology, which is the challenge to replicate the first two models in other cities in the United States. And the final is a recording label, MCG Jazz, because Bill loves jazz. NewBridge is one of ten Manchester Bidwell replications thanks to the foresight of The Cleveland Foundation.
What are the adult vocational programs offered at NewBridge?
The Bidwell Training Center has seven programs they train, one being an associates level program. Their programs are longer and run seven to twelve months. At NewBridge, we have found that shorter training programs that allow students to be trained and out in the world working quicker are what Cleveland needs. We have STNA, phlebotomy, and culinary programs for adults. Recently, we partnered with organizations who pay us to train students while they are being case managed by those groups so we can better serve students. Working with these partners and having the intensive case management around our programs is helping students to have all the skills they need to enter the work world.
What does the youth program at NewBridge look like?
We work in partnership with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. We talked to leadership and teachers, and found that what they need is social and emotional learning curriculum. The schools do a Conditions for Learning survey at the beginning and end of the school year. They find that not much is changing because they are not able to focus on social and emotional learning when they are focused on meeting educational standards. We are able to provide the social and emotional portion that empowers students to explore self-management, responsible decision making, relationship skills, and social awareness.
Students come here after school on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to do group activities with a therapist. They utilize photography, graphic arts and ceramics to express what they’ve learned in their curriculum. At the end of each module, they co-curate an exhibition to showcase their work to the community and sell it for a profit. Through the summer, some of those students will come back as camp counselors for younger students. They will then continue as studio agents in the fall, supporting the teaching artists with the new cohort of student and get paid to lead programs.
What sparked your interest in working with a nonprofit?
The for-profit world did not feed my soul and I did not understand why. I was changing jobs, thinking it would be different with a different company, but it was never different. Personally, one of my twins is autistic and when she came along it changed my perspective on the world. For me, that’s what really pushed me into nonprofit, mission-driven work. She required a lot of my time but also I looked at the world differently.
Who has been the most influential person in your work?
Bill Strickland, the founder of Manchester Bidwell. As a employee of the National Center for Arts and Technology, I got to work closely with him as he traveled to different cities to share his vision. His story is so interesting and inspiring. No matter how many times I heard his speech, it never got old. It was genuine and the work is so meaningful. When I took that job, I had no idea what I would be doing and it turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your work?
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