Since its launch in 2012, Building Bridges to Careers (BB2C) has grown its capacity and impact, making great strides in strengthening community networks and bridging the gap between education and employment for local students and residents. In 2017, after years of deliberation and planning, BB2C launched the Epicenter, a business incubator designed to engage local high school students and expose them to an entrepreneurial environment. Originally housed in the Armory, the Epicenter expanded last fall to move across the river into the Tenney Building on Lancaster Street, thanks in part to support from the Ross Foundation, the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation and Regional Affiliates, and a matching donation of $15,000 from the Marietta Community Foundation. With the new location, the Epicenter had room to grow and introduce a new makerspace and learning labs.

Building Bridges to Careers is excited to announce that the match has been met through generous donations from the community. The additional $15,000 will allow the organization to continue meeting its mission to improve the collective economic opportunity through preparing young learners for lifelong economic mobility and security.

“Each BB2C project begins as a pilot to test and validate the concept. This has been the case with the Epicenter as we started in the Armory with space for three incubated businesses,” said Pamela Lankford, the Epicenter Director. “We have now grown to five incubated businesses and the addition of the makerspace. However, neither the pilot nor the expansion to Lancaster Street could have happened without the financial support and donations of furniture and equipment from both individuals, businesses and organizations.”

Pamela says that the Epicenter strives to be responsive to the needs of the community while zeroing in on their goal of creating successful students and prosperous communities. “Because we start small, solicit feedback and make adjustments, we aim to show our stakeholders that we are good stewards of their donations and are fiscally prudent.” It is this stewardship that will allow the Epicenter to expand once again. BB2C will host an announcement celebration later this month, on July 27th from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Marietta Brewing Company to share the good news.

Photo taken by Brett Wharff of WMOA AM1490

The organization is also excited to announce a new professional development series for local teachers to expand their network of support by tapping into other community networks. “The class is designed to expose teachers to innovative technology used in various employment sectors by teaching them to use the technology available in the Epicenter Makerspace and connecting it to the curriculum they teach,” said Tasha Werry, Building Bridges to Career Director.

Tasha hopes this connection will encourage teachers to connect their students to the technology through a field trip to the Epicenter. Participating teachers will have an opportunity to apply for a mini-grant supported by the Marietta Community Foundation to help cover transportation and/or material costs, as needed, which will aid their efforts to provide innovative projects and programs for their students in the future. “By connecting the teachers directly to the Foundation, they will be exposed to philanthropic efforts that support education and learn to tap into this resource for the benefit of their students,” Tasha said.

Building Bridges to Careers and the Epicenter are still seeking funders to ensure the success of future expansion and new programs. Donations to support this program can be made through the Marietta Community Foundation.

For the month of July, Building Bridges to Careers is also the recipient of Marietta Brewing Company’s Community Pints event. For every pint purchased on Fridays throughout the month, $1 is donated to the organization. BB2C staff members and volunteers will be present each Friday evening from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. to share information and updates on the organization and the many programs they offer to area students and the community.