Founder Marcus Jackson started the program 13 years ago to help build sustainable communities and break generational poverty cycles in Oklahoma City.
Marcus Jackson came up with the idea to create Urban Bridge after working with teenagers for 13 years. Now co-founder and executive director of the program and founder of The Bridge Impact Center, Jackson’s passion for fostering sustainable communities in order to minimize the poverty gap shines through.
“I remembered being young and curious, but also not very hopeful about what my future would hold,” Jackson said. “I honestly believed that I would end up in jail at some point, like most of the men around me at that time. It wasn’t until someone took the time to mentor me and engage my natural talents in music for my mindset to change. So, I wondered what it would look like to help young people, like myself, discover their gifts and talents through daily engagement.”
Urban Bridge’s mission is to improve the quality of life in underrepresented communities through mentorship, free mental health services, financial literacy, tutoring, career preparations and artistic workshops. The program offers both on-site and external resources to incoming youth, with more than 72 students already benefiting. Jackson’s dedication to bridging the poverty gap in OKC’s Eastside communities is based on a holistic approach to form a healthy and equitable environment for youth.
“One thing that sets us apart is that this organization is founded and run by people who are indigenous to the Eastside community,” Jackson said. “We are Black-founded and have a diverse board of directors as well. There’s cultural elements in our approach that creates a deep connection with the youth and the families they come from. We are aware of challenges and traumas that exist from our own personal experiences in overcoming adversity.”
Urban Bridge also utilizes entrepreneurship and technology programs, athletic training and creative expression classes to empower the future leaders of Oklahoma. To expand its outreach, the organization hosts career days for adults to share their personal journeys, and all donations made to Urban Bridge are matched and doubled up to $150,000, courtesy of the Jasco Giving Hope Foundation.
“I’ve been listening and learning from teenagers to implement meaningful programming that serves their generation while showing them that they actually have a voice,” Jackson said. “Our holistic approach — mentorship and beyond — is focused on the future as well as the individual, and his or her challenges today. Through our work, bridges of hope are created for the youth within our community.”