Youth, off the Streets … and soon to be visiting their community Elders

Bowen college launch

Heart and Soul Story was privileged to be present at the launch of Youth Off the Streets Bowen College in Maroubra today, and hear how well the current students are doing there.

Bowen College is one of Youth off the Street’s four accredited high schools dedicated to providing tailored and focused education for students who may be at risk of falling behind in mainstream schooling. Bowen Campus offers a curriculum catering for students’ academic, psychological and vocational needs

According to Marc Freedman, Fostering Intergenerational relationships for at-risk youth 

Many at-risk youth are growing up isolated from the range of caring and consistent adult relationships so important for navigating the treacherous course from adolescence to adulthood. An accumulation of research from the social sciences suggests that adult relationships — provided not only by parents, but by grandparents, neighbours and other interested elders — are a common factor among resilient children, who achieve success despite growing up under disadvantaged and stressful circumstances. ”

Marc’s goes on to cite a study from Philidelphia that looked at five intergenerational initiatives and aimed to provide a better understanding of what really happens when elders and at-risk youth are brought together. Amongst others, key findings were;

  • Bonds between Elders and youth will form in social programs structured for that purpose
  • Despite a sharply age-segregated society, participants in most cases were able to forge powerful attachments
  • These relationships appear to help change the life trajectory of the youth .. from one headed for failure to a more adaptive path of survival.
  • Elders interviewed found they were provided with a challenge of helping youth change their lives. The Elders also felt a special empathy that appears to derive from the marginal status shared by elders and youth in society.

Perhaps one of the study’s most striking findings is that the most effective elders were individuals who had not lived what would commonly be considered “successful” lives. Many had endured strained family relationships, struggled at low-paying jobs, and battled personal problems, such as alcohol abuse. Partly as a result of surviving–and surmounting–such difficulties, these elders seemed to understand the youth, were able to use their own experience as real-world teaching tools, and speak the language of their young partners.

Heart and Soul Story will be working closely with the amazing and committed team at Youth off the Streets Bowen College to develop the Seniors and Teens Empathy Program (STEP) to best fit the needs of the teens of Bowen and the Aged Care residents of Bupa Aged Care Maroubra.  in the hope we can report similar results in the not too distant future.

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