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Collaborative YOU Program a Slam Dunk for Participants

Donny Herber, a YOU Career Coach, had the opportunity to go on a Western Michigan University campus tour with several Bridging Opportunities youth Aug. 15.

Bridging Opportunities is a multi-agency initiative established in 2017. The Kalamazoo County Juvenile Courts and the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety (KDPS) assembled a group of agencies, including YOU, to focus on youth development and develop strategies for reducing the amount of crime committed by juveniles within city limits.

The Bridging Opportunities collaborative fills these young people’s summer hours with productive activities such as paid work experience, educational support activities, community beautification projects and career exploration.

Additionally, each participant is paired with a KDPS officer mentor who checks on them periodically throughout the summer, and, in this case, shoots hoops with them on the WMU basketball courts.

“It definitely was not a typical tour, as the youth were able to spend some time talking with the men's basketball head coach and play basketball with some players from the WMU men's basketball team,” Donny said.

Bridging Opportunities youth have worked at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo, Northside Association for Community Development and have expanded both their technical and soft skills at both sites. The youth have also visited the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Groves campus and were able to earn gift cards in return for effective work performances. 

Many of the program participants saw a decrease in police interactions. Police and community program partners also noted positive changes in several students’ attitudes, teamwork skills and general disposition.

Bridging Opportunities has the potential to completely alter an on-edge young person’s outlook on careers, community and, most importantly, self-worth. This program, and the trip to WMU, is exemplary of YOU’s pledge to positively impact at-risk youth in the Kalamazoo area.  

YOU is a career pathway organization providing young people in Southwest Michigan with academic enrichment, job training and workforce readiness opportunities designed to enhance individual and community-wide prosperity. For more information, visit