BRIDGE program provides access to education in partnership with Hayti Reborn-Justice Movement

January 2024 saw completion of the six-week BRIDGE program and the beginning of a new chapter for the 11 graduates of the second cohort in the Hayti Reborn-Justice Movement and Durham Tech collaboration that started in 2023. 

The BRIDGE program is a unique partnership between Hayti Reborn-Justice Movement and Durham Tech. The program’s full name, Building, Reinventing, Improving, Developing Great Employees and Entrepreneurs, pays homage to Durham’s historic Hayti community. 

The program, the brainchild of Candace Rashada, director of Career Services & HRD Career Services, and Lisa “L.A.” Jones, executive director of operations for the Hayti Reborn-Justice Movement and Steve Chalmers,  co-executive director for Hayti Reborn-Justice Movement, works to prepare individuals of varied occupations and transitions in areas of technology awareness, soft skills, math, reading and other basic skills. 

“The goal of the program is for participants to design their pathway to their ‘what’s next,’” Rashada said. 

Hayti identifies justice-involved people, and Durham Tech then goes on-site at Hayti to do an orientation so people can make an informed choice about whether to enroll in BRIDGE. 

“This is Hayti’s project, but we are grateful to be collaborating,” Rashada said. “The workforce development is all Durham Tech. We set a path for each participant that includes continued support.” 

Participants are adult learners who had involvement with the justice system and/or traumatic life experiences. Each participant is interested in learning a skill and getting a “re-do,” as Rashada refers to it. 

“We are a talent development institution,” said J.B. Buxton, Durham Tech president. “When this collaboration came together, it was to provide good things for the participants, but also to provide the best talent to the community.” 

At the graduation ceremony, Buxton introduced the keynote speaker, Durham Mayor Leonard “Leo” Williams, who spoke of putting specifics into “life’s GPS” to get where you want to go. He encouraged the graduates to include strategies, goals and willingness to work in the life GPS to “watch it get you on the path to your destination.” 

Graduate Thomas Caraway, spoke to the audience on behalf of the graduating cohort. Caraway shared his story of 16 years' incarceration prior to coming to the BRIDGE program. 

“The BRIDGE program made me see and do things differently,” Caraway said. “Society wouldn't let me forget my past. The BRIDGE program let me plan and live my future.”