Now in its 19th year, School’s Out Washington’s annual Bridge Conference brings together school-age care providers, youth development professionals, leaders, community organizers, funders, and policy makers from across the country.

Attendees hear from thought-provoking presenters and learn new strategies to build strong programs and equitable systems for young people, in and out of school. Reflected in all aspects of the Bridge Conference are the values of equity, belonging, leadership, nourishment, change, innovation, and community. Our attendees and presenters represent the diverse communities we work with across the state. In 2021, for our second virtual conference, we will come together to celebrate, influence, and learn in community with the expanded learning field.

We gather to:
  • Engage with a diverse range of knowledge, people, and perspectives
  • Identify the ways that racial inequities impact youth, expanded learning opportunities, and educational outcomes
  • Experience a sense of belonging to nourish social connection and professional networking
  • Learn how to implement tangible practices that promote an equitable expanded learning opportunity ecosystem
  • Strive to recognize power dynamics throughout programs and systems and begin to strategize how to co-create stronger partnerships across sectors

2021 Bridge: From Seedlings to Stardust
Across time and cultures, humans have found comfort, guidance, and knowledge amongst the stars. Before we had the technology to tell us what was out there, we were grounded and deeply connected to this unknown we reached for it. The stars can be said to be our first home, the first dreamscape of humankind. We have only just begun our rupture – the shattering and deconstruction of—individual and collective realities. This change has brought exhaustion—with no clear path in sight. Yet, we cannot stifle ourselves in normalcy. 2021 Bridge: From Seedlings to Stardust dares us to dream and to pour into the tenaciousness of transformation. The seeds have been sown—now, how do we shape this change?

Systems Leader Cohort
For 2021, the Systems Leader Cohort will include a Pre-Conference on October 26 and a series of recommended workshops for funders, policymakers, and community leaders. This cohort will focus on advancing equity through a well-supported expanded learning system in this profound moment of change.

Bridge Conference Registrants: Once you register, participants will receive an email from Sched inviting you to create and/or log into your Sched account so you can create your personalized schedule and prepare to attend the event. Check out our Attendee Guidance Checklist for more info on "how" to show up to this virtual event or contact our Customer Service team at bridge@schoolsoutwashington.org if you have any challenges navigating the platform. 
avatar for Benjamin Baird

Benjamin Baird

Program Manager
Nine Mile Falls, WA
Ben has been working in the Youth Development field for the past 18 years and has experience working with and for a wide range of organizations and programs. Before joining SOWA, Ben was the Assistant Manager of Youth Development at West Central Community Center serving under-represented youth and families in the West Central and Emmerson-Garfield neighborhoods of Spokane. Raised in Spokane, Ben grew a love for the outdoors. This passion fueled his approach to youth work, believing that our natural and wild places can be utilized to greatly impact the hearts and minds of young people, and led him to create The Outdoor & Wilderness Learning School (OWLS), a top Washington State - No Child Left Inside grantee in 2016-2017, that teaches self-reliance and positive life skills to children and teens by using outdoor experiences as a catalyst for learning.

Ben is a certified Peer Assistance and Leadership (PAL) instructor with the Workers Assistance Program out of Austin, TX; a mentor with The Mayfly Project, a National organization that uses fly fishing at a relational tool to improve outcomes for youth in the foster system; and an Ad Hoc Educator at The Community School, a project based high school in the Spokane Public Schools system, where he facilitates the Leadership and Peer Engagement activities.
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