jayla_fox_web.jpgRIVIERA BEACH — It was “about family,” said Terri Ferguson. Moreover, it was about “a community of families coming together to support children through encouragement and healthy competition.”

The ultimate goal, said the director of Bridges at Riviera Beach, regarding such efforts as her program’s Annual BEE Brilliant Spelling Bee, is “to build a community of children who are healthy, safe and strong.”

Like the Bridges programs from Belle Glade to Pahokee to Lake Worth, “Connecting Families, Strengthening Communities” is the mantra of the one at Jay's Ministries, 2831 Ave. S in Riviera Beach.

In Riviera as elsewhere, noted Ferguson, “too many children enter kindergarten without the fundamental academic tools for successful matriculation and graduation with a high school diploma.”

Bridges at Riviera Beach hopes to improve those odds by working to increase the engagement families and communities in the academic success of their children, she said.

“Our philosophy is based upon research that states 90 percent of a child’s brain is developed by age 5,” Ferguson said. “We have to start early and we must engage families and the community in the process.”


The Annual BEE Brilliant Spelling Bee held Aug. 9 is one such Bridges effort aimed at accomplishing those goals.

“The event is held each year and preparation begins before school is dismissed for summer vacation,” Ferguson said.

“Parents with children entering into K up to third grade attend an orientation where they learn about the ‘summer academic slide’  (i.e. the disparities between lower- and middle-class socioeconomic groups and its impact upon children living in high-risk communities). Our children are 30 percent more likely to regress

academically during the summer months. That means they are behind at the start of school. Parents are then provided with a word list designed to help them understand what their children are expected to know for the next school year.

“It all culminates in a dynamic good old fashioned spelling bee,” she said. “Parents are expected to practice with their children at home during the summer months. Children learn presentation skills, assertiveness skills, good sportsmanship and a lot of words!”


Key objectives of Bridges, a program of the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County that establishes gathering places to connect families to community resources, are to have more children born healthy, kept free from abuse and neglect, ready for kindergarten and on grade level by the end of third grade.

The 10 Bridges locations are run by local nonprofit organizations (Children’s Home Society and Housing Partnership Inc., in collaboration with St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church, Lake Worth Resident Planning Group and New Beginnings Community Development Center) that have experience in community engagement and long-standing relationships within their neighborhoods and beyond.

While each Bridges is tailored to its community's needs, all aim to help parents raise their children to be healthy, safe and strong.

For more information visit gocpg.org/Bridges-at-Riviera-Beach or call 561-899-1644.

Photo Jayla Fox