Gaining Valuable Experience by Working With the Elderly Community
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Carly, 17, and Sean, 17, are high school students in Carmel, California. They joined Mentor Up, an intergenerational mentoring program that coordinates community services. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) created Mentor Up. As members of Mentor Up, Carly and Sean won two grants from AARP to start Wired for Connections, an effort that helps older adults understand technology and new devices. Below, Carly and Sean share what inspires them to volunteer in their community.
What inspired you to volunteer with older adults and start Wired for Connections/Mentor Up in your community?
Sean — Growing up with dyslexia was difficult, but I learned to read and write with help from older adults. I wanted to give back to them and thought the best way to do that was through teaching technology, such as how to use computers, smartphones, and the Internet because that’s what I know.
Carly — Last year, my brother went to the Naval Academy. It was hard for him to call and visit us. Texting became our primary method of communication. I saw my grandmother struggling with texting. She wanted to communicate with my brother but needed guidance. This inspired me to help other older adults learn about the latest technology.
Tell us about the Wired for Connections/Mentor Up Program and how it started.
Carly — We approached the Carmel Foundation, a local organization working with older adults, and asked if we could mentor seniors who are interested in technology. The organization was happy to partner with us, as was our school. We offered the opportunity to our classmates and with the help of a teacher, started a club that meets weekly at our school.
Sean — Our program is simple; student mentors meet weekly with older adults to discuss their technology questions. We also started a club at our school that meets weekly after classes to discuss our experiences mentoring.
What have you learned from your experiences volunteering?
Carly and Sean — We have learned more from the older adults than they’ve learned from us. We enjoy hearing about their life experiences. It’s a rewarding experience for both us and our older adult partners.
What advice do you have for youth who want to make a difference in their communities?
Carly and Sean — Our advice is to start with what inspires you and find people and organizations with similar goals in your community. We found a local organization and teachers in our school that helped us make our program a reality. We then worked to inspire our classmates to join us. After a few weeks of mentoring and sharing our experiences at club meetings, our classmates became more and more engaged and excited about the program — it continues to grow!
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