Friday, September 19, 2014

Gloria Estefan: In Her Own Words - Hispanic Heritage Month

My grandmother on my mother's side cared for me from birth, and nurtured the thought that music was a gift I had received. And although I was reluctant to follow that path, I somehow found myself involved with music because our gifts are meant to be shared for the good and pleasure of others. We remained extremely close throughout my life, and even after her death I have often found comfort in her memory and the wisdom she shared with me.

My grandmother always pointed out my strengths and filled me with hope for the future. She constantly nourished my inquisitiveness, and shared many quests for seeking answers to my questions. She wasn't afraid to let me see her vulnerability, and made that intimacy an asset to be celebrated. Primarily through her example, I learned that we, as women, have limitless potential. I finally said yes to music because of her.

The most valuable lessons I learned from my grandmother were to discover what makes you happy, and do it with as much energy and joy as you can muster.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Grandfamily's Unexpected Strengths

Barbara Wells is a case manager at the Program for
Recovery & Community Health in Yale University
School of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry
Barbara Wells knows a thing or two about adversity – how it can either break you or tap unexpected strengths.

As someone who succeeds at challenges, the biggest one came for the single grandmother in 2006, when her grandson, Jay’son, moved in with her after his parents' incarceration.

Until that moment, Wells, whose grown daughters had their own children, enjoyed her life in Newport News, VA., where she lived for 17 years and worked as a crane operator at a shipyard.

The freedom to travel allowed her to take off for New Haven, CT., after her mom’s heart attack in 1992.

And, while boarding a bus back to Newport News, Wells's right foot went through a snow-covered pothole before she lost her grip and and her left foot slipped on the ice. 

She broke her right leg in five places. 

When doctors told her she would never work a crane again, she decided to stay in New Haven and go back to school.

Her life before Jay’son looked like this: finish school, move back to Newport News and work as a social worker.

Nowhere in those plans included a second parenthood raising a grandchild. “Since I had to get him, I said, ‘I’m going to raise him now. I’m not going to let him go into the system,’” she recalled. “‘I’m going to put my life on hold for right now.”

That was eight years ago. “Now,” the grandmother said, “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Wells is among the 2.7 million older Americans raising one or more grandchildren under age 18, according to 2012 census data. “Of these caregivers,” data reports, “1.7 million were grandmothers and 1.0 million were grandfathers.”

This grandfamily's new light includes Jay'son, 14, starting high school at New Haven’s Metropolitan Business Academy. “I’m very proud of him,” Wells said. “Most children who are not living with their parents have some type of behavioral problems.”

But through therapy, she said, “he’s doing such a remarkable job.”

And so is Wells, who recently graduated from Southern Connecticut State University with her Masters in Social Work.

The grandmother, who’s a case manager in Yale University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry, is even thinking of relocating with her grandson to Maryland, North Carolina or Florida for full-time work and a fresh start.

Jay’son’s got his eyes set on Virginia, which piqued his interest during a recent trip to Newport News. When asked how he felt about moving, he told her, “I will just have to meet new friends.”

While their days are brighter, Wells recalls those dark times that nearly broke them. “When he was younger, it was a little tough,” the grandmother said.

She recalled 6-year-old Jay’son often worrying about his future. “Grandma, how am I going to be able to take care of myself?” he asked her. “I’m afraid.”

The anger came when he got older. “He didn’t want to go to school,” the grandmother said.

About 7.8 million children, like Jay’son, across the country live in
Grandfamilies, or households headed by grandparents or other relatives.
Just when she and Jay’son thought they reached their breaking point, they tapped unexpected strengths.

Wells found hers in New Haven's services for grandparents raising grandchildren, her friends and family, and even her grandson.

Through The Consultation Center’s Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program - funded by the Agency on Aging of South Central Connecticut - the grandmother’s resources included support groups, parenting skills training, respite opportunities and legislative advocacy.

The Kinship Fund, which the Connecticut Children's Trust Fund runs, helped Wells make the financial adjustments to care for Jay’son.

When the social worker, an undergrad student at the time, had to make her 7 a.m. classes, her family and friends – especially Jay’son’s paternal grandparents – took care of him.

“Grandpa Johnnie was close to the only positive male role model in his life,” she said, crediting Grandpa Johnnie and his wife for helping her reach her goals.

“It is alright to co-grandparent,” said Wells, adding that she and Jay’son’s other grandparents call each other “grandparents-in-law.” “They have been right there by my side.”

When school nearly broke her, Jay’son was another unexpected strength. “He’s a very intelligent young man despite his diagnosis of ADHD,” Wells said, remembering an undergrad video project her class partner sat on until the last minute.

Barbara Wells (center), posing with her daughters and Jay'son, holds a grandson
who lives with his mom in Dubai.
When Wells’s classmate lost their recording on her way home, “Jay’son and I were up at 3 o’clock in the morning,” she recalled. “He recorded the video and made sure I had it ready for class the next day.”

During grad school, he helped Wells with her PowerPoint presentations.

As for Jay’son’s unexpected strength, it came from his grandmother.

During those undergrad days, when Wells couldn’t find a sitter, she took her grandson to school with her. Watching his grandmother study hard inspired Jay’son to take his education seriously.

“It’s nice to show children what college is about,” she said.

Now, he won’t stop talking about it. “He understands that you can pick your classes on the days you want, if they’re available,” the social worker said. “He loved it.”

Wells’s classmates also loved having him around.

Now, it’s hard for the social worker to imagine her days without Jay’son, even as she recalls how her life changed that night in 2006.

“When I first got Jay’son,” Wells recalled, “I had to seek services for him.”

A stranger at a center surprised Wells with her reaction. “Are you going to take  your grandkid?” the woman said. “Oh, I would never do that.”

Despite those concerns, Wells has no regrets. “It was tough,” she said, “but the joy I get out of watching him grow into a nice, respectable young man was worth it.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

We're There for Each Other - Hispanic Heritage Month

Click here to read the full report.

The Plymouth Intergenerational Coalition

EDITOR’s NOTE: Each week, we’ll feature intergenerational program ideas that were tried and successful. This series is a tool to highlight various age-optimized programs and practices. The program descriptions are provided by representatives of the programs. Inclusion in this series does not imply Generations United’s endorsement or recommendation, but rather encourages ideas to inspire other programs.


In part 17 of our series, we feature the Plymouth Intergenerational Coalition, an intergenerational nonprofit based in Plymouth, WI.




The mission of the Plymouth Intergenerational Coalition is to maintain and promote opportunities that build and honor relationships between generations through positive social and educational experiences.


The Plymouth Intergenerational Coalition is committed to linking generations to build a strong and healthy community that supports and engages people of all ages.


The Generations facility which sits on a 7 acre campus houses the Plymouth Adult Community Center, Growing Generations Child Care, 2 Head Start classrooms, a 4-K classroom, the Family Resource Center of Sheboygan County, the senior meal-site, an outreach office for Safe Harbor which is the sexual assault and domestic violence prevention agency in the county, and on Sundays has services for the New Life Community Church.


Generations provides planned intergenerational programming but also offers many opportunities for accidental occurrences for relationship building for people of all ages. It also welcomes many organizations who use the facility regularly and partners with many groups and agencies from throughout the region.

Got something cool you tried that was successful? Why not tweet your cool intergenerational ideas to #cooligideas? You can also post them to our Intergenerational Connections Facebook Group. Youth Jumpstart Grantees can share ideas here. Or just text us through the Facebook Messenger app (friend me to join our Cool Intergenerational Ideas group discussion). We want to highlight innovative age-optimized programs and practices through our blog, social media and weekly e-newsletter!  Share the inspiration.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

LinkAbility

EDITOR’s NOTE: Each week, we’ll feature intergenerational program ideas that were tried and successful. This series is a tool to highlight various age-optimized programs and practices. The program descriptions are provided by representatives of the programs. Inclusion in this series does not imply Generations United’s endorsement or recommendation, but rather encourages ideas to inspire other programs.

In part 16 of our series, we feature LinkAbility, a Durham, NC-based social action nonprofit.


For more than five years, LinkAbility has been working with students on social action issues tying them back to their community.

This year, they made a change to include their older adult population. They are seeing an intergenerational culture shift happening.

The Bio Legacy Project, The Garden Legacy Project, Generation Connection and The Alzheimer's Music Project(AMP) are all programs that create the paradigm....come be part of the change at www.linkabilitync.org.

Got something cool you tried that was successful? Why not tweet your cool intergenerational ideas to #cooligideas? You can also post them to our Intergenerational Connections Facebook Group. Youth Jumpstart Grantees can share ideas here. Or just text us through the Facebook Messenger app (friend me to join our Cool Intergenerational Ideas group discussion). We want to highlight innovative age-optimized programs and practices through our blog, social media and weekly e-newsletter!  Share the inspiration.

International Literacy Day

Yesterday was International Literacy Day, when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and its partners launched a social media campaign to raise awareness of and concern for literacy problems in communities here and abroad.

It’s fitting that the day is during Grandparents Week, when we celebrate older Americans’ contributions.

In honor of International Literacy Day and Grandparents Week, we highlight UNESCO’s campaign as well as AARP Experience Corps, Senior Corps, Jumpstart and OASIS Institute - all of which use an intergenerational approach to promote literacy.

Through its campaign #literacyselfie, UNESCO and its partners called on all ages to take selfies reading their favorite book or reading to a child, and then posting the picture to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

In addition to using the hashtag to contribute to the national movement, each community created their own local hashtag like #cleliteracy or #indyreads to capture local involvement.

Like UNESCO, Jumpstart takes a national focus to combat literacy problems.

Through its premiere national campaign, Read for the Record, Jumpstart mobilizes millions of children and adults to celebrate literacy by participating in the largest shared reading experience.

Since 2006, the campaign has, according to Jumpstart’s Campaign Impact, engaged 11.5 million children, raised more than $8.6 million for early education programs and provided more than 1.6 million books for children in low-income neighborhoods.

The year-round advocacy at AARP Experience Corps is just as impressive.

This award-winning national program engages people 50-plus in meeting their community's greatest challenges.

Two thousand volunteer members tutor and mentor in 19 cities across the country, providing literacy coaching, homework help, consistent role models and committed, caring attention.

Independent research shows that AARP Experience Corps boosts student academic performance, helps schools and youth-serving organizations become more successful, and enhances the well-being of adults 50 and older in the process.

The older adults at Senior Corps, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, are just as committed.

Conceived during John F. Kennedy's presidency, Senior Corps connects today’s 55+ with the people and organizations that need them most.

Through its Foster Grandparents initiative, older volunteers serve at thousands of local organizations that help children learn to read and provide one-on-one tutoring, mentor troubled teenagers and young mothers, care for premature infants or children with disabilities, and help children who have been abused or neglected.

In St. Louis, MO, OASIS Institute is also changing lives.

The program’s intergenerational tutoring connects seniors with children in grades K-4. Volunteers work one-on-one with children each week, helping youth build confidence and experience success.

Promoting literacy is one way you can Do Something Grand for Grandparents Week. Check out GrandparentsDay.org for other fun ideas.