by Kari Easton, ninety-nine girlfriends member liaison to our grantee, PDX Bridge


The following story updates us on the first year work of our first grantee partner. It is based on the information shared by PDX Bridge with our Impact Team at our year one check-in.

“Just stepping onto a college campus changes the family culture.”

(Allison Trowbridge, PDX Bridge student coach)

When the students served by ninety-nine girlfriends’ very first grantee partner started classes at PCC this fall, the campus environment was nothing new. They had four college writing credits and a college guidance class under their belt AND a minimum of six months of personalized support behind them. This support meant that during their senior year of high school, with the help of an experienced teacher / coach,  they enrolled at PCC , set up an online college account, took two evening classes, and waded through the financial aid maze of higher education.

“I realized how important it is to get college credit, so I wanted to have that done. And I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.” (PDX Bridge Student)

If you need a reminder about who these students are, they are youth in foster care, or youth experiencing homelessness, or youth who are involved in the juvenile justice system or youth who experience any combination of the above.  They are students who are vulnerable to a self-perpetuating cycle of neglect, abuse, incarceration, and homelessness. PDX Bridge’s goal is to identify and recruit these students in high school and get them through their senior year and into college. With access to  higher education and a community of support, opportunities multiply, including the possibility of securing a family-wage job and someday providing safe and supportive homes for their own children.

“My college success coach, throughout the whole entire term, she was by my side to help me with all the work and any support I needed.” (PDX Bridge student)

The first group (or cohort) of students piloted the program and taught the team quite a bit.  Fewer students enrolled and fewer students completed the program than predicted, providing valuable information about what’s needed to help a student be successful. PDX Bridge is now providing a 10-week “readiness” training program (using a research-based proven curriculum from USC) to a large swath of students through the network. They have trained 50 practitioners from collaborating partners and 150 students have completed the program. This year’s cohorts are maxed at twenty-five students each, with wait-lists, and with additional support to address the obstacles that were identified in the pilot year (e.g. support for transportation, childcare and more.


PDX Bridge increased its partnerships from twelve to now thirty-five community groups - public and private organizations with shared goals of engaging and supporting vulnerable youth. The Bridge Team is furthering the goal to  improve communication and lessen the overlap and red tape involved when multiple agencies work separately to support the same youth.

If you’re in this program, you know what no support feels like. What I love is that students are super-grateful. There’s a lot of awareness around the value of this kind of support. (Allison Trowbridge, PDX coach)

Says Jeremy, the PDX Bridge Team Lead and Senior Manager at Gateway to College National Network,

“Our outreach and programmatic efforts/adaptations have completely paid off. We have already recruited our Winter quarter to capacity and have a waitlist. Many of these youth came from referrals from the general public schools (PPS mostly) and DHS caseworkers. We also already have over ten youth enrolled for Spring quarter. It was a slow start, but we’re in full stride now.”

And says Glenn Fee, another Gateway Leader:

The momentum that we’ve enjoyed as a result of the 99 girlfriends award has been significant for our efforts here in Portland.

Ninety-nine girlfriends members stepped up individually to help guide PDX Bridge - in so many ways. Special shout outs to Barbara Hilyer, Marnie Frank an Michelle Hynes who are all taking their own time to participate as members of the Ambassadors Council or Steering Committee.

The ninety-Niners should feel great about our very first $100,000 dollar grant PDX Bridge and excited about who their next projects will support!!

update from pdx Bridge, Mar 2017


Desi, a junior at Helensview High School , is in the first cohort of the PDX Bridge program.

Desi, a junior at Helensview High School , is in the first cohort of the PDX Bridge program.

Throughout middle school and her first year of high school, Desi was uninterested in her education. In a large school, it was very easy for her to skip class without anyone noticing, and she often did just that. As a result of judgement that she felt from others, Desi became discouraged and lost confidence in her abilities. In her words, she didn’t allow herself to shine.

In her sophomore year she began attending a smaller school where she felt seen and supported. Desi started to believe in herself again. Once she realized that she could do well in school, she found that she wanted to try harder. She asked family members and people in her school to hold her to her newfound expectations.

So, when her college success coach, Geoffrey Garner, told her about the PDX Bridge, Desi was excited. “It’s free and I can get college credit while still in high school? Who wouldn’t take this?!” Desi signed up for the program right away and already feels that her involvement with PDX Bridge is changing her outlook on education.

As one of the 19 young people in the first cohort of PDX Bridge, Desi credits the program for its unique offering to youth who are affected by poverty and homelessness, including foster and adjudicated youth. PDX Bridge connects students in state care with the wraparound support needed to enroll in college and successfully complete their first year. Now Desi’s plans for the next few years include starting Portland Community College.

“Thank you to each of the ninety-nine girlfriends for your support as we launch PDX Bridge,” shared Glenn Fee of Gateway to College National Network. “We’re off to a terrific start. We’re confident that PDX Bridge addresses a critical need for our community, and we look forward to following these inspirational young people as they grow into significant contributors to Portland’s future.”

On March 15 at Noon, Desi will join two fellow PDX Bridge students at GtCNN’s Gateway Gathering to share the story of her educational journey. We encourage you to register for the event and come hear more from students who we’ve helped support through ninety-nine girlfriends!

“Thank you to each of the ninety-nine girlfriends for your support as we launch PDX Bridge.”
— Glenn Fee, Gateway to College