By Sarah McKinney Gibson
A retired chef, the president of the Los Angeles Council of Black Professional Engineers, an AmeriCorps VISTA member, a former White House Fellow, and a Montessori educator.
Meet the five new Gen2Gen Innovation Fellows / Early Childhood, all with big ideas for leveraging the talents of older adults to improve the care and education of our youngest children.
Over the next three months, each Fellow will receive $5,000; coaching and support designed to boost visibility, contacts and funding; plus the chance to win an additional $5,000 Judges’ Prize awarded by a panel of 27 experts.
The five Fellows, pictured from left to right above, are:
1. Jennifer Thompson, executive director of the Power Packs Project in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Thompson, a retired chef and former president of the St. Joseph Health Foundation, is pairing older adults and children from low-income families to teach nutrition literacy and cooking techniques, encourage creativity, and build positive relationships with others and with food. She’s intentional about including both active and frail older adults, working together to support young children.
2. Michael Batie, founder of the STEM Parents Network, in Los Angeles, California. With 50 years of experience working in STEM fields, Batie is passionate about ensuring that kids of color develop mathematics literacy at a young age so that they’re prepared to participate in 21st century careers and professions. His program trains parents and grandparents to support young children in learning math.
3. Treasure Nguyen, AmeriCorps VISTA member at the San Jose Public Library in San Jose, California. In their first year as an AmeriCorps VISTA member, Nguyen created the Library Link volunteer program, which recruits bilingual adults 50+ to fill the cultural and linguistic gaps in the library’s early childhood education programs. With their language skills, experience and knowledge of the community they serve, these “Library Links” increase caregiver access to information on how to best support the development of the children in their care. Nguyen will continue their AmeriCorps service for a second year.
4. Max Tuchman, CEO and co-founder of Caribu in Miami, Florida. A former White House Fellow and Executive Director for Teach For America Miami-Dade, Tuchman saw the potential in the Caribu app to help traveling parents and deployed military members read to their kids, but soon discovered the app’s power users are grandparents. Named one of TIME magazine’s “best 100 inventions of 2019,” Caribu now reaches thousands of children across 164 countries.
5. Lisa Armao, founder of Montessori Intergenerational Learning Communities in Denver, Colorado. Armao uses Montessori programming to bring together young children and adults with dementia for mutual benefit. Using Montessori methods to care for adults with dementia is the standard in Europe, but it’s a new and growing practice in the U.S. Armao is an advocate for the Montessori approach, which she believes builds life-changing relationships for old and young alike.
The goals of the Gen2Gen Innovation Fellowship are threefold — to shine a light on intergenerational innovation, help innovators attract attention and funding, and spark new programs and investment in early childhood workforce solutions that include people over 50.
“We hear a lot about generational divides these days,” said Janet Oh, director of innovation fellowships at Encore.org, “but these five social entrepreneurs are telling a new story about the power of innovation to bring us together across the divides of race, age, language and income. We can’t wait to counter ‘Ok, Boomer’ with their stories.”