The Center for Intergenerational Learning was born in 1979 at Temple University. Since its inception, the program has served as a laboratory for developing, evaluating, and replicating a plethora of programs designed to meet the needs of older adults, families, and children alike. Currently, more than 2,000 people are participating in 16 programs that address critical social needs.
For the past three years, a retired postal worker visits the home of a family that has been reported for child abuse and neglect to model positive parenting skills and help with the children. During the past eight months, two college students go to the Cambodian Buddhist Temple to assist older Cambodian refugees learn English and prepare for their citizenship exam. Three days a week, a man visits a local elementary school to give one-on-one assistance to second graders who are having problems learning to read. These are just some examples of the services offered through the center.
Older adults serve as literacy tutors and parent outreach workers in elementary schools, child care aides in day care centers, and mentors to children who have been witnesses to violence. The volunteers also offer guidance and love to teen mothers, parents who are having difficulty parenting, and families caring for children with disabilities.
The programs in the center are innovative and two of them are being replicated nationally due to their success. Across Ages is an intergenerational mentoring initiative. It was selected by the Center for Substance Abuse as a National Dissemination Model and is now being integrated into drug prevention programs across the country. Project SHINE – Students Helping in the Naturalization of Elders – is funded by the Corporation for National Service and is operating in five cities now. Over 500 college students help 1,400 elderly immigrants and refugees with English and their citizenship exams. Evaluation studies document the center’s significant positive impact on reading scores, school attendance rates, classroom behavior, level of parental stress, and English language skills.
Along with creating unique venues for young people and older adults to contribute to their communities, the center also promotes partnerships among organizations serving different age groups, conducts research on the impact of intergenerational strategies, creates materials to promote the replication of successful pilots, and provides training and technical assistance to local, national, and international organizations interested in integrating intergenerational approaches into their program services.
The Center for Intergenerational Learning has been a pioneer in the field of intergenerational programming. Its demonstrated effectiveness in mobilizing youth and older adults to serve as resources to each other and their communities will continue to make the center a beacon of hope and an example to all who are touched by its light.