Alfred Ciffo, III, a 10th grader, discovered that Hallandale Beach has many senior citizens over the age of 65 and he felt that he could do something to improve the quality of life of the seniors. In 1998, he founded Teen Connect, a program through which high school students are paired with mature citizens. The pair talks several times a week to provide company and an outlet from solitude. Not only does the project help alleviate the negative effects of isolation for some elders, it also helps others to embrace the opportunity to share their perspectives with a youth. Teen Connect was initially a partnership between Pine Crest High School students and the elderly, but Alfred has spread Teen Connect to schools throughout Broward County and the State of Florida.
Alfred penned a manual titled, Teen Connect, A Social Service Guide. This was produced to help other youth start more Teen Connect chapters in their schools as well as other intergenerational projects. Through the office of Dr. Thomas Geismar, Executive Director of Educational Programs for Broward County, the project has been presented to all 24 school districts throughout the state. To further assist in the advancement of Teen Connect, Alfred will spend the summer as a volunteer intern in the Secretary of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs offices.
Alfred speaks at schools as well as radio and television programs. Through his efforts, Teen Connect has had an overwhelming response as membership and new chapters continue to expand. Annually, Alfred and the charter chapter host a Valentine’s Day Luncheon, which brings together teens and seniors. There, they can put a name with a face and strengthen their bond.
To date, Alfred Ciffo has logged more than 1,200 hours in support of Teen Connect. He has also donated his manual and designed and maintained a Web site for all of the Teen Connect chapters. Alfred’s diligent efforts have impacted the lives of countless teens and seniors. A recent survey found satisfaction high between both groups. The intergenerational sharing has become important for both the teens and the elders. Teen Connect is a simple way for teens to bring hope, care, and friendship and the elderly to bring a different perspective to the lives of youth.