Bridging the generation gap through mentorship

By Paul Taylor, Writer, Researcher, Speaker and Senior Fellow at Encore.org

In a rapidly evolving society, many communities are experiencing a generation gap between older and younger residents. Oakland, California in the United States is one such place.

Bridging the distance between the older citizens of Oakland and the younger communities they serve is a challenging, but rewarding opportunity for Peter Sherris, a retired cardiologist who runs the Rotary Club of Oakland’s KinderPrep program. Through the program, the club upholds Rotary’s guiding principles and brings vocational service to life by giving members opportunities to use their skills to mentor youth. The program allows members to share their knowledge and guide youth in building a successful future.

Since 2012, the club adopts nearly 1,000 low-income preschoolers each year who attend transitional kindergarten programs operated by the local school district. Club members serve as classroom aides, organize field trips and raise almost $85,000 a year for artist-in-residence programs, books, supplies, toys and additional classroom items.

“We feel we can have a big impact on [students’] readiness for kindergarten – just by having another adult in the room who can help them learn to hold a pencil or find a letter,” Sherris said. Classroom teachers agree, giving the program an overall rating of 4.8 (out of 5) in a recent assessment. They are especially grateful for the classroom help and field trips to the local zoo and amusement park since many of the families served by the program do not have the means to take their children to these places.

Alongside Rotary, many other organizations work to bridge the demographic divide. Encore.org, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, promotes second acts for the greater good. Recently the organization launched Generation-to-Generation, a campaign to mobilize 1 million adults ages 50 and older to help children and youth thrive.

Rotary members are already engaging in these types of mentorship programs and we look forward to partnering with clubs to help enhance their service efforts. Our combined efforts can empower youth with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. Contact us to get involved.

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