Right At School Blog

Heart of RAS | Helping All Students Reach Their Potential with Dr. Dawn Bridges

At Right At School, we understand that schools and districts are taking a more holistic approach to supporting students as they continue to address the challenges of lost learning time, student wellbeing, and more.

We believe that by building strong partnerships that can connect school, home, and community, education leaders can transform schools into learning hubs that empower students, support educators, and engage families.

In this ongoing series, we are spotlighting some of the amazing people on our team who are the very heart of what we do everyday. Recently, our VP of Educational Affairs Dr. Dawn Bridges, shared her personal educational journey and what drives her.

Dr. Dawn Bridges, Vice President of Educational Affairs

I have seen that happen time and time again. When we set the bar, kids will rise to that level — whether we set it low or high. That’s why it’s my personal mission to ensure that kids have the opportunities they need to thrive.

— Dr. Dawn Bridges

I was first drawn to the education profession by a desire to level the playing field to ensure that all students have the opportunity to become the best version of themselves they can be.

Watching my sister Renee navigate her educational journey as a student with Down Syndrome exposed our whole family to many of the inequities that are still present today. Early on, Renee’s journey was about inclusion. I watched my parents fight to ensure she could go to our neighborhood school and be in classrooms with the kids from our street. Years later in the transitional program at her high school, a significant barrier she faced was the limited belief by others about what was possible for her. No one stopped to really consider what she was capable of. For years afterward, those limited expectations became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

After Renee graduated, she worked at a department store doing tasks like cleaning out dressing rooms and returning merchandise to the shelves. That went on for 19 years until my parents moved and she relocated to a different store. On her first day, her new manager asked, “What do you aspire to do at Target?” Renee said, “ I want to be a cashier.” This manager advocated for her and provided her with the training and the extra time she needed to complete it. She has worked as a cashier ever since. Together, Renee and her manager set the bar high, and she reached it. I have seen that happen time and time again. When we set the bar, kids will rise to that level — whether we set it low or high. That’s why it’s my personal mission to ensure that kids have the opportunities they need to thrive.

During my 25-plus years in public education, I’ve held many positions, including classroom teacher, reading specialist, principal, special education coordinator, and assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. Even working at the district level, I viewed my responsibilities through the 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. school day lens. I didn’t think about what was happening with students before or after school. I thought those out-of-school times were beyond my control, and thus, beyond my interest.

That changed when Adam Case, Right At School’s Chief Growth Officer, contacted me about a position at the company. I had no interest in leaving where I was at the time, so he asked me to visit one of Right At School’s enrichment programs. That changed everything! I started doing my own research and saw the impact of out-of-school time programs. That’s when I decided to make the leap to Right At School.

We know from research — and from the events of the last two years — that kids need more time for high-quality learning. They need to feel safe. They need positive relationships with their peers and with responsible, caring adults.

When I look back on what made the biggest difference in my life as a student and in the lives of the students I’ve worked with, it’s the relationships.

The chance to help a child reach their potential can come from just one person advocating for them. It can come from just one relationship with an adult who helps them feel safe enough to try. My sister — now 45 years old — is living proof of this.

In my work at Right At School, I meet with district superintendents across the country. When we have conversations about their students’ needs and look at their strategic plans, I often see that those plans focus only on what happens during the school day. 

Education, however, doesn’t fit into that 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. box anymore — learning isn’t limited to the school day. So how can we create a connected educational experience that strategically supports students before, during, and after school?

District leaders that partner with Right At School know that our high-quality enrichment programs can be customized to support their unique vision and priorities, and the needs of their students and families. They know that these programs can play an integral role in the education ecosystem and in helping each school become a learning hub to support the education and the well-being of the children in their community.

There is no question that this is a challenging time in education, but it is also an amazing time to make a difference. Now is the time to work together to focus on what’s ahead and what can be ahead for our students. What do we want for them? What outcomes do we want to achieve? How can we get there?

Building strong relationships is necessary to supporting students before, during, and after school.

By taking an all-hands-on-deck approach, we can create rich educational experiences that give students the opportunities they need to become the best versions of themselves. We can set the bar high and our students will rise to the occasion.

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