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MN Generations in Conversation

July 17, 2020

Like many others in the Spring of 2020, we had to drastically rethink our project to fit into a socially distant world. Our idea of a youth gathering to learn media skills had to shift to something new. 

With COVID-19 came a lot of uncertainty, isolation, and overwhelming feelings. Although experienced individually, it is a community wide problem. As we physically isolate to reduce the spread of COVID-19, it is so important to stay socially connected to those we love, and to build new connections with people over 65 in our communities who are especially vulnerable to the virus. The wisdom and strength we need to get through this pandemic is here in our community, and we have to take the time to hear it. 

This was the birth of the MN Generations in Conversation project. As a CTEP AmeriCorps Civic Engagement project, four members developed a lesson plan in the hope of using our tech knowledge to connect people across physical distance and generational divides. We were deeply influenced by the work of David Isay and StoryCorps, and we wanted to create something that could capture the complexities of the times. Our project is an intergenerational, community-based effort bringing young people and elders together to have conversations about their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With all of that in mind, we developed a curriculum for a three-part training to teach youth interviewing skills (with possible remote instruction). This involves training on why conversations matter, what makes a good interview, and the technical dos and don'ts of remote interviewing. The youth also have time to practice their interviewing skills, giving them the confidence they need to have a good interview experience. 

We then partnered with Urban Strategies and the youth from Green Garden Bakery to find a group of youth who would be interested in this kind of project. They are based in the Heritage Park neighborhood. We met with about six youth over the course of three Zoom calls. We got to go through all of the training and iron out some of the issues we encountered while trying out our lessons for the first time. We then let Urban Strategies coordinate connecting the youth with elders in the Heritage Park community. 

Our tested and updated curriculum and example interviews will be available online as a resource for future CTEPs or anyone who would like to lead an interview training for themselves. 

Group Members: Kenzie Putz, Connor Rowher, Sarah Sheldon, Peder Tune
Community Partner: Urban Strategies and the youth from Green Garden Bakery

Each year our 35 CTEP AmeriCorps members choose community action projects that make a contribution to bridging the digital divide. The CTEP civic engagement projects are often cited by CTEP AmeriCorps members, staff, supervisors, and community supporters as one of the most unique and energizing parts of the program. This is one of the 2020 civic engagement projects.