Having served 27,000 students and invested $4 million in social and emotional learning (SEL) programs since 2016, Bridge Up at Menninger reports increased mental health and well-being, improved academic performance and SEL skills, and decreased rates of violence, aggression and disciplinary referrals among middle and high school students in the Greater Houston Area.


BridgeUp at Menninger is an initiative of the nationally ranked psychiatric hospital that cultivates and invests in collaborations between schools and non-profit organizations to implement social and emotional learning programs for vulnerable youth.
Data collected from grantee reports and school records report the following qualitative and quantitative outcomes as a result of BridgeUp at Menninger:

  • 2,189 students have been referred to local mental health providers for assessment and early intervention since the initiative launched in 2016.
  • A one-year BridgeUp program focused on middle school students who are refugees, the Texan-French Arts Alliance found that 79 percent of students said they did their school work even if they didn’t feel like it and 90 percent of students reported respecting a classmate’s opinion during an argument, compared to benchmark scores of 66 percent and 80 percent respectively. 
  • KIPP Connect Middle School reports that 92 percent of their eighth-grade students, who all participated in the BridgeUp at Menninger program, passed the Algebra 1 end-of-course state exam, a 9 percent percent increase from the previous year’s pass rate and 20 percent higher than the statewide pass rate of 75 percent.
  • Pasadena ISD reports that SEL has contributed to decreased rates of office disciplinary referrals and suspensions at DeZavala Middle (43 percent) and at Miller Intermediate (56 percent) from 2015 to 2019.

“These outcome data demonstrate the positive impact of BridgeUp at Menninger in improving academic performance, population health and mental health outcomes in schools across the Greater Houston area,” said Patricia Gail Bray, PhD, director of BridgeUp at Menninger. “Our renewing grant organizations have shown that BridgeUp programming is scalable in that more school districts and nonprofits are eager to replicate it.”
For the 2019-20 school year, BridgeUp at Menninger renewed four grants and announced three new grantees, together spanning five independent school districts and serving more than 12,000 students in partnership with 44 nonprofit and behavioral health organizations.
The renewing BridgeUp at Menninger programs are:

  • Alley Theatre: A+SEL Alliance at Rucker Elementary and Stevenson Middle School (Houston Independent School District)
  • Connect Community: Connect to Character at KIPP Connect Middle and High Schools and Jane Long Academy (Houston Independent School District).
  • Galveston Independent School District: Causeway Galveston
  • Pasadena Independent School District: All Means All at De Zavala and Shaw Middle Schools

The new BridgeUp at Menninger programs are:

  • Council on Recovery: Encouraging Healthy Choices at Sam Houston Math, Science and Technology Center (Houston Independent School District)
  • New Caney Independent School District: SEL Implementation at Keefer Crossing Middle School, Woodridge Forest Middle School and Infinity Early College High School.
  • Spring Branch Independent School District: HAWK Community Mental Health at Spring Woods Middle School

Separating the initiative from other SEL funding opportunities, the grantees commit to implementing and participating in each of three prongs of the BridgeUp at Menninger model. The first prong requires that the grantees identify and tailor a schooltime curriculum using the evidence-based Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning framework.
Secondly, grantees must implement a multi-tiered system of interventions that connects students with appropriate mental health supports such as screenings, counseling, peer-support groups, outpatient therapy or intensive psychiatric treatment. The grantees have the option to refer their students to Menninger for assessment and treatment.
The third component of the BridgeUp at Menninger model is participation in an impact network facilitated by the All Kids Alliance to foster collaboration and short-cycle continuous improvement so that the grantees have the opportunity to learn best practices from each other, discuss challenges and adjust their programming during the school-year.
In addition to this site-based, short-cycle measurement tool, the grantees will evaluate their curriculum implementation to assess how social and emotional competencies are being enhanced. Together, these provide micro and macro analysis of the impact BridgeUp is making systemically and collectively.
Funded by a $8.9 million grant from the David and Helen Gurley Brown Trust, BridgeUp at Menninger is at the midpoint in its seven-year funding plan so directors are using all outcomes data to strategically guide scalability and replicability. Based on the success of BridgeUp at Menninger, the trust, which is now named the Pussycat Foundation, is looking to incorporate the SEL into its other BridgeUp youth development programs that focus on mentorship, STEM, women in film and conservation.
“As the CDC reports increased rates of teen suicide and more students expressing consistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, we know the need is great for social and emotional learning programs that teach teenagers coping skills, resiliency, emotion management and relationship building competencies,” said Bray. “The proven BridgeUp at Menninger model is designed to be scalable and economically viable, so we are empowering our partners to use their success metrics to secure long-term funding while at the same time broadening support so that we can expand our reach.”
To expand its reach locally, BridgeUp supports grantees’ efforts to seek additional funding sources so that they can sustain and expand existing SEL programming. For example, based on their success through BridgeUp, Galveston ISD was awarded an additional grant from the Moody Foundation to expand their BridgeUp program across all schools in the district. Similarly, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health recognized the success of Connect Community’s BridgeUp program and awarded the organization a grant to expand SEL programming to Jane Long Academy.
Regionally and nationally, BridgeUp at Menninger directors frequently consult with nonprofit organizations, school systems and elected officials to share the success of the model and advocate for broad implementation of SEL curriculum to improve youth mental health and academic performance as part of a focus on the whole child.
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