For the past year, Ampact, with support from CoGenerate’s Generations Serving Together program, placed cogenerational pairs of AmeriCorps members in elementary schools. The older and younger adults worked side by side to improve students’ reading and math skills. A...
CoGenerate is proud to be part of More Perfect, a coalition of national service and bridge-building groups that launched a bold plan today calling for cogenerational national service and volunteering, including a dramatic expansion of opportunities to engage 1 million...
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Spark the Change Colorado Brings Generations Together to Fight Food Insecurity and Social Isolation
Director Kelly Streck is loving what happens when older volunteers team up with fifth graders to find solutions
What is your program called, and how does it work?
Listen Learn Act Academy brings together a team of fifth graders and adults aged 55+ to learn about food insecurity and social isolation. They talk to get to know each other, research the issues in their community, figure out what is being done to address the issues, where there are gaps and what they can do to help. This results in service projects that are completely created by the participants based on their discoveries.
Why did you want to be part of Generations Serving Together, bringing generations together in national service?
I love service learning and how it opens doors to new perspectives, self-confidence and the power to take action. At Spark the Change Colorado, we had two AmeriCorps Senior programs but nothing for youth. Earlier in my career, though, I worked with elementary school children. This was the perfect opportunity for me to bring that experience with youth and our seniors together in service learning.
What problem is your program trying to solve?
We’re working to address food insecurity and social isolation. One of our older adult participants was recently unhoused and is going to be one of our first “guest speakers” on her experiences with the issues that she is experiencing. Another volunteer with the program shared in a recent activity that, growing up, she was part of the Free and Reduced Lunch program and how that made her feel. I am so excited to see what the participants discover in their research and from guest speakers – both those that I coordinate and those that they choose to invite – and which direction they choose to go with their service projects.
What’s the value of a cogenerational approach?
We expected the older and younger folks to learn from each other’s experiences. But we’ve been really pleased to also see the younger generation gaining the confidence and skills to interact with older generations on a peer level, the older generations realizing the value of approaching issues through the lens of a younger person with innovative ideas, and all of them strengthening the skills needed to work together on a team.
What’s your big audacious vision? If you succeed, what change will we see?
My big vision is for the team to recognize a need in their community that isn’t being met with current efforts and do something to fill that gap. Maybe it’s creating a service project that they implement as a team. Maybe it’s identifying a partner in the community to work with to implement their idea. The beautiful part about this program is I have absolutely no idea what the actual end result will be but the process is already amazing! I expect we’ll see a tangible change from their projects, but I know we’ll see a change in how they each approach problems, solutions and potential partners of all ages.
How can people get involved with your work?
They can contact me. Kelly Streck, [email protected] We have a working Advisory Committee supporting the program development. We are looking for additional sites in the Denver area for the fall, volunteers to support the programming, and older participants for a fall cohort!
Favorite way to wind down and relax?
A dance party with my 5-year-old and 2-year-old!