What happens when aging adults and young people come together to share their stories? This past Spring, NYC’s Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) and NYC’s Department for the Aging (DFTA) put this question to the test and planned a project to bring together two different generations of New Yorkers to learn from one another and build meaningful relationships during the My New York Story project.
The Power of Partnership
This program started like many programs in NYC during the COVID-19 pandemic. They had to think of creative ways for the Foster Grandparents from the Department for the Aging (DFTA) to continue volunteering in the new virtual environment. So, the DFTA partnered with the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) to create an intergenerational opportunity focused on bridging communities, sharing resources, and fostering positive relationships between NYC’s older adult population and youth.
When DFTA and DYCD brought this project to MENTOR New York, a powerful partnership sparked. As experts in relationship building and infusing a mentoring mindset, MENTOR NY helped design a curriculum to facilitate meaningful connections between aging adults and youth allowing them to authentically open up and share their stories.
“MENTOR New York facilitated weekly sessions where we presented on a topic to meet our program objectives and cultivate a safe virtual space for the mentors/mentees to connect. We engaged the group leaders at the youth sites to bolster them with tactics to engage and foster the mentoring relationships in breakout groups,” said Joie Golomb, the Associate Director of Partnership Development & Engagement at MENTOR New York.
The main goal of this project was to increase interaction and exchange between the different generations, allowing them to share their New York stories and learn from each other.
“Brainstorming ideas that led to this project would not have been possible without the partnership between DFTA and DYCD. In addition, the partnership with MENTOR New York took the project from an idea to a concrete plan of action. Thank you to everyone who was instrumental in making this project a success,” said Tracy Garcia from DYCD and Sapir Ashkenazi from DFTA.
Intergenerational Relationships Leads to Shared Learning
“Every session, the young people and older adults bring such enthusiasm, and it is surprising how quickly they connected to each other and how willing they are to share their stories,” said Garcia and Ashkenazi.
Gloria Miller, a Foster Grandparent from DFTA said, “Through our interaction (with the youth), I received confirmation that our young people are critical thinkers. They are able to imagine and reimagine possibilities in the world we live in. They may get sidetracked by difficult challenges, however with consistent encouragement they persevere. They may not readily accept what we consider acceptable.”
The youth from Grand Street Settlement said, “We learned that our foster grandparent Gloria lives by herself and she enjoys being alone. She goes outside to go food shopping daily and other activities. Grandma Gloria does not know how to work the video camera on her phone, but don’t worry we will teach her before this project is over. Other than that, she’s great and has a wonderful personality. We can’t wait to continue to get to know her more.”
For the youth, the best part about this project was getting to know and conversing with the foster grandparents. They loved meeting new people and interacting with them, especially when they're older because they could give them new and vital information to pass on.
How Can You Partner with MENTOR New York?
Does your program work with young people and adults? Partner with MENTOR NY to ensure intentional relationship building occurs that will best serve youth. Visit MENTOR New York’s website or email Joie Golomb, with any questions.