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Event Recording: A Conversation With Kasley Killam

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Hats Off to AmeriCorps Members Working to Bring Generations Together in Service!

Celebrating AmeriCorps Week with a visit to a cogenerational wellness program in Fresno

By Eunice Lin Nichols | Mar 14, 2023

A group of 10 people in front of the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission offices

Eunice Lin Nichols (fourth from the right) and the team of workers and volunteers from the Fresno Economic Opportunity Commission.

Happy AmeriCorps Week!

I’m celebrating with congratulations to all the trailblazing AmeriCorps members bringing older and younger generations together in service. 

I’m just back from a visit with Raquel Padia and Leah Struck, who work at the Fresno (CA) Economic Opportunity Commission, one of eight CoGenerate grantees piloting new ways to age-integrate national service.

Raquel and Leah are leading a new cogenerational wellness program, bringing together Foster Grandparents and young adults, including students from local colleges, to teach emotional literacy to youth ages 7-10 at the local Boys and Girls Club and ages 16-24 at YouthBuild

The college students I met were so enthusiastic about the chance to work with older colleagues to jointly develop curriculum based on principles from Brene Brown’s Atlas of the Heart.

The older women “provide another view of life and more experience,” said Reba, a millennial. “They are food to my soul!”

Other young adults commented on the Foster Grandparents’ abilities with youth. “Ms. Julia puts everybody at ease,” said Ale, another millennial. “She can say to the YouthBuild kids, ‘Put your phone down. This time is precious, so let’s pay attention.’” In a surprising note, Ale added, “My interactions with the Foster Grandparents have made me more open now with my own parents!”

The Foster Grandparents said the program has changed them, too. “I wasn’t sure I had anything to offer,” Gerri, a baby boomer, said. “But there’s no kicking back. I make suggestions. I get to give input. They are so open to hearing what I have to say.”

Julia, a member of the so-called “silent” generation, agreed. “In our planning meetings, we do a lot of personal storytelling on a different level than I’ve ever done before. 

“We learn from them,” Julia continued. “They learn from us. We’re feeding off of each other. We haven’t had any generational tensions between us. It just fell together.”

Raquel, a millennial herself and the staff lead for the project, said, “These ladies – they’re not just my volunteers. They’re my team. I’ve never felt this close with a team before.”

Bringing older and younger people together in service should be commonplace, but it isn’t. 

This AmeriCorps Week, let’s prioritize bringing generations together in service to solve problems and bridge divides. And let’s celebrate all the trailblazers working to make it so.

Hats off to all eight of the CoGenerate grantees piloting ways to age-integrate national service!

  • Ampact (Minnesota/Georgia)
  • ASU Lodestar Center (Phoenix, AZ)
  • The Be Ready Alliance Coordinating for Emergencies (BRACE, Pensacola, FL)
  • Fresno (CA) Economic Opportunities Commission’s Foster Grandparent Program
  • LISC AmeriCorps (NY HQ)
  • Northern Santa Barbara County United Way (CA)
  • Seniors in Service of Tampa Bay, Inc. (FL)
  • Spark the Change, Colorado (Denver)

And thanks to the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Einhorn Collaborative, and the M Center for Excellence for their support of this important work.