CHARLOTTE EAST MATTERS: An Interview with Ms. Sil Ganzó about East Side Issues

Ms. Sil Gonzó with ourBRIDGE students

Ms. Sil Ganzó directs ourBRIDGE for Kids, and I met with her at their new location on the grounds of Aldersgate Retirement Community. I learned about ourBRIDGE when Mr. David High of Aldersgate praised their work and shared that he was delighted to bring them to East Charlotte. OurBRIDGE is a non-profit “out-of-school” program that supports refugee and immigrant students as they adjust to a new life in the U.S.

Ms. Ganzó explained that, while tutoring and academic programming are important services they
provide, ourBRIDGE also strives to support the social and emotional growth of the children in their care. She explained that refugees have 90 days of support after arriving in the U.S., and a lot must happen in that window. Many ourBRIDGE kids grew up in refugee camps or had to flee their homes and leave everything behind. “We want our kids to be proud of who they are. Sometimes having an accent can feel embarrassing, but we make sure they know it is a good thing because it means they speak another language. We want to help them feel at home, confident, and safe.”

OurBRIDGE draws students from several local elementary schools and Eastway Middle School for after school or summer programs. Students work on English and math and get homework help, but Ms. Ganzó explained that their curriculum touch on all disciplines through lessons on citizenship, empathy, and sportsmanship. A school counselor and family therapist are also available. “We develop an individualized plan for each child.”

Ms. Ganzó explained that OurBRIDGE receives lots of community support, because “our success is evident.” Their data show students exceeding national growth by 37.9% in reading and 47.9% in math. (Loosely, growth is the number of grade levels advanced in one year.) Ms. Ganzó, a native of Argentina, has been with OurBRIDGE since its inception. She grew it out of a for-profit organization that was discontinued, driven by her commitment to help refugees. “It’s not enjoyable leaving everything behind, but you do it if your best option is to grab-and-go. These kids are going to be here,” said Ms. Ganzó. “They are going to be working in this city and country. They need our support now.”