The Bridge is Allynwood Academy's transition program for their older students, operating partly on the main campus near Hancock and partly in downtown Binghamton, about an hour away. The students in the earliest stages of The Bridge live on the main campus with greater privileges than the less senior students and are transported three days a week to Broome County Community College in Binghamton to attend classes. When ready the "Bridge" students move to commercially available student housing in downtown Binghamton right at the center hub of the city bus system. These are generally students at Broome County Community College but might attend University of Binghamton. City bus is available to the community college and the program might provide transportation; the university is within walking distance.
The program's own website describes this as a three stage program, although one might alternatively think of it as two stage or four stage depending upon point of view. Students in the Bridge program can begin at the stage for which they demonstrate readiness, whatever that happens to be, although all entering students should expect to spend at least a few days on the Hancock campus when they first arrive for orientation purposes, although it is not unusual for a student to arrive from another program admitted directly to the Binghamton apartment location. For others, the move from the Hancock Campus to the apartments in Binghamton is definitely a step from one stage to another.
Students may begin simply as part of the traditional Family Foundation School. As such, they have access to college level course work that is academically appropriate in the main school facility at Hancock. When appropriate they may have access to the staff of the Bridge program but live under the same structure as the other Family Foundation School Students. One might consider this the first stage of the Bridge. When ready, these students begin to take classes at Broome County Community College and are transported there three days a week. This stage involves some minor relaxation of rules on the Family Foundation School campus and great freedom to move about the campus while at the community college. One might think of this as the first stage or the second stage of the Bridge.
When ready, students move to their own apartment in Binghamton, or one shared with another Bridge student. They must demonstrate readiness, but at this point they are responsible for their own meals and housekeeping, as is customary in apartment living. The apartments are, frankly, luxurious. Staff of the Bridge program are available by day and, when appropriate, during evenings, and always available on call 24-7. They offer support with functioning in the new environment, such as meal planning, housekeeping, support meetings, fun activities as a group, and help with educational issues at the Community College. All Bridge students see a program therapist at least weekly. The students are never without access to help and support, although they have more latitude to make mistakes and learn from them. That latitude has limits. The staff is proactive, initiating contact, and correcting mistakes as needed.
Bridge Students have potential to progress to living fully independently while continuing to receive support from the program as needed. That might be thought of as a separate stage of the program.
This program is very well managed. Mike Losicco and Jason Garnar are two of the key managers in the program. Jason, who came to Family Foundation School after the "younger generation" of managers was firmly in place, directs the Bridge program. Mike has been connected to Family Foundation School as either an employee or a volunteer for almost thirty years. Jason has strong skills to manage and direct, and to guide college placement. Mike has comes with a very pragmatic view of recovery and practical experience with this age group. A highly skilled female therapist is the third major influence on this team. (We mention that she is female as we believe that influence is necessary for balance). The diversity of the perspectives of these three individuals makes the Bridge a perfect example of the saying, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." This is a leadership core that brings out the best in everyone.
FamilyLight currently (August 2o13) has two students participating in the Bridge. One came through Family Foundation school, went off to college, then decided that he was not ready to be on his own and on his own initiative asked to come back. The other came directly to the Bridge apartment program in Binghamton (after a brief stay at the Hancock site in order to get acquainted and get oriented) having completed a therapeutic school. Both appear to be very well served by this program.
This is a relatively new program; we hope it will prosper and grow. Our single recommendation for this program would be to make the transition from living in Hancock to living in the apartments in Binghamton a shorter step. We urge Family Foundation School to create a transition program in Hancock open both to Bridge Students and chronologically younger students who are at an advanced stage in the program where they are allowed freer association with each other including more liberal social rules between genders, access to internet, cell phones and social media when they are away from the other students at the school (but with continued staff supervision). Perhaps this could be accomplished by creating one co-ed Family with their own day space in a building away from the two main buildings on the campus. Clearly it would not work for these students to be taking advantage of all of the increased freedoms while mixing with the other students.
We acknowledge that this recommendation is completely impractical if it cannot be combined with a practical way for these students to have an active role in mentoring and role modeling with less advanced students. But between our experience with both this and other programs, we believe it is a very high priority that participants who have been in a strictly structured program go through the process of learning to handle these freedoms (read: distractions) responsibly while still surrounded by positive support. We see this as an important step, one that is missing at Family Foundation School, before students are ready to move on to a truly open environment. We believe developing this stage at Family Foundation School would provide better preparation not only for Bridge students moving to the open environment of the Binghamton apartments, but also the younger students headed home or two a conventional boarding school or the high school senior who would benefit from more normalized living while not being in a position to change schools so close to high school graduation. See also our page on recommendations for Family Foundation School.
We welcome the addition of the Bridge to the Family Foundation School array of services. We recommend it to our clients and encourage families of other young adults to give it consideration.
Last updated August 31, 2013