Building bridges

Sullivan retreat weekends help a Campbell University student embark on a dream

Jonathan Bridges, a senior at Campbell University, wanted to be a football player when he first arrived on campus, but injury plagued him and, after suffering his second concussion, he was forced to find a new focus.

That’s exactly what he did. Combining his passion for athletics with a desire to change the world for the better, he eventually founded Goal, a youth program he hopes will improve the lives of young people and, through them, improve the communities around them.

Getting to that point didn’t come without some help, however, and perhaps nothing helped Bridges more than landing in one of the Sullivan Foundation’s Service and Social Entrepreneurship Program retreats.

He’s now been to three retreats, and has found that, in addition to the education on offer, the program offered him the opportunity to develop into the kind of person who can tackle the challenges of launching such an ambitious program.

“(Sullivan retreats) helped me find a different side of myself,” he says. “When I went to my first Sullivan retreat, I was so closed in and quiet. But by the end, I was probably the most outgoing person there. It’s dribbled over into my daily life.”

It takes more than confidence, of course, to find success. Bridges needed guidance and found it at another retreat, where he met Christopher Gergen, CEO of Forward Impact, an entrepreneurship education organization. A conversation they had led Bridges to take his vague ambition and hone it into something he could make a reality.

“He told me my original idea was too broad. He said to go with the thing you love most in the world and use that to change the world. What did I love most in the world? Soccer.”

Soccer had served as a replacement for football late in Bridges’ college career, and he’d fallen in love with the game. Using soccer tournaments as an anchor, he plans to educate kids and their parents about making healthy choices to combat childhood obesity.

But battling that epidemic is only the beginning. Bridges wants his program to have two other components: building up communities and giving kids new opportunities—to learn about themselves and about important qualities like discipline, teamwork, and leadership.

As the goal broadens, so will the method. In addition to soccer, Bridges hopes to build after-school programs for arts and academics to help create well-rounded children ready for the challenges that await them.

“I want kids to be able to go where they want to go, whether academically or artistically or (in) whatever field,” says Bridges. “I want to give them some kind of push to help them find out what they’re capable of doing and to help them be who they want to be.”

With the solid foundation he’s gained from Campbell University and his Sullivan retreats, he’s well on his way, with plans to make Goal his full-time job post-graduation.

“My number one goal is to change the world and change lives,” says Bridges. “I want to be able to put smiles on the faces of others.”

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