Bridging the Gap

Posted on March 6, 2014

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By Katie Butler

527698_318736014896769_1304388714_nCaroline Ponseti speaking at The Bridge launch party. Photo Credit: Lennette Ponseti

Katie Butler: Can you describe The Bridge in one word?
Caroline Ponseti: Empowering

I had the privilege of chatting with Caroline Ponseti, a Rhodes student who, along with a handful of her peers, founded and launched “The Bridge.” This newspaper, or “street paper” as Ponseti describes it, is sold all over Memphis. The sellers, however, are not young boys and girls who mount their bicycles every morning before dawn and eagerly throw perfectly rolled, crisp papers at lonely front porches. No, the vendors of this paper wear humble blue smocks and knowing smiles: the homeless. Not only do homeless individuals sell The Bridge, but it is their livelihood. They make what they sell.

KB: What about the sellers?
CP: Resilient.

“We didn’t sit down and decide to start a street paper- it just happened.” Ponseti thinks hard for a moment. “I had seen homelessness but never knew what to do with it. There was never a solution, but always the issue.”

KB: How would you describe the impact of The Bridge?
CP: Unexpected

“One of the most inspiring thing about The Bridge is the empowerment of the college students who produce the paper. We don’t just have to channel our talents into internships and jobs, but we can actually do the things needed to run a real paper.” Ponseti smiles. “This tells you that you can do more in the world.”

KB: How would you characterize the homeless vendors and contributors of The Bridge?
CP: Misunderstood.

“Our writers give us such a unique outlook on the world. It is just remarkable.” Ponseti’s eyes brighten as she continues. “People have a lot of stereotypes that the homeless are uneducated, but they can see the good in the world despite their disadvantages.” Now sparkling, Ponseti sets her eyes on me. “The Bridge helps them regain confidence, and we can all witness it.”

KB: Describe the staff in one word.
KP: Quirky

“It wasn’t like we were determined to do something cool,” Ponseti says of her fellow founders, James Ekenstedt and Evan Katz, “we just saw a significant problem and found a proven solution. It made sense.”

KB: Any hopes for the future?
CP: For all those involved in The Bridge to be engrained in Memphis.

“One of our major goals is to level the playing field between students and the homeless that we work with. We want to break down the barriers- we don’t like the soup kitchen mentality.” Ponseti pauses, thinks for a moment, and simply states “We will level the playing field.”

KB: Why is The Bridge important to Memphis?
CP: Memphis is on the rise. A lot of times, Memphis is overshadowed by Nashville and people think that Memphis has lived past its glory days, but now it’s starting to embrace its flavor. The Bridge is helping a different subset of people in Memphis- not just the young artsy crowd, but we are moving up all sectors of society to embrace the good of the city. It has so much potential.

I finish my cup of coffee and Ponseti puts her backpack on, heading off to class. She adds, “In ten years, I think Memphis will be a very different place.”

She takes a few steps and then finishes her thought: “through the Bridge, we are witnessing this transformation.”

Learn more about The Bridge by visiting their website: www.thememphisbridge.com

Katie Butler is a freshman at Rhodes College.

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Posted in: News