Young and old come together in THTwo Harbors High School was abuzz with voices on the evening of April 23 and it wasn’t just high school students visiting in the lunchroom. There were elementary school kids and senior citizens seated at the tables, too, talking and laughing as they wrote on sheets of colored paper.
By: LaReesa Sandretsky, Lake County News Chronicle
Two Harbors High School was abuzz with voices on the evening of April 23 and it wasn’t just high school students visiting in the lunchroom. There were elementary school kids and senior citizens seated at the tables, too, talking and laughing as they wrote on sheets of colored paper.
If the Northland Foundation plan works, this scene will be much more common in the coming years. The foundation named Two Harbors an AGE to Age community earlier this year, and a deliberate effort is underway to open communication channels among the older, middle and younger generations in the community.
“We’re bringing young people together with older adults,” explained Lynn Haglin, vice president and KIDS PLUS director for the Northland Foundation.
Two Harbors is the 13th community in the Arrowhead region to purposefully focus on the relationship between its youth and older adults. It all started in 2007, when the Northland Foundation set out to find what aging in the region meant, thanks to a grant from the Atlantic Philanthropies Foundation.
After more than 150 interviews, a couple of themes emerged, Haglin said. Older residents wanted more opportunities for civic engagement and they also cared deeply about the well-being of the youth in their communities. With that framework, the Northland Foundation secured more funding—mostly from local donors and the Bush Foundation—and began its AGE to Age program.
They began by working with ten communities, and Haglin said the initiative looks strikingly different at each site.
“It’s really a variety of things. Each community is unique,” she said.
The end result has been an intergenerational technology center in one town, a park built by old and young in another and generations harvesting maple syrup and wild rice together on local Indian reservations. Each program is beneficial in its own way, Haglin said.
“We’ve seen relationships develop that have really helped young people,” she said.
Chris Langenbrunner, director of community education in Two Harbors, applied for the designation and is eagerly watching the process unfold in Two Harbors. Community members have met a total of three times and Langenbrunner said they are well on their way to a clear vision.
“We’re getting closer to identify what projects we want to happen,” she said.
The April 23 meeting involved identifying successful programs that already exist and what can be learned from them. THHS Junior Drew Christensen is synthesizing the ideas from that meeting and crafting a vision statement.
Shari McCorison, program associate for Northland Foundation, is from Two Harbors and has been helping guide the AGE to Age process in the community. She said the prominent themes from the last meeting involved history, gardening and creative arts—all informed by Two Harbors’ location and uniqueness.
“They live on the edge of so many opportunities (as well as) beauty and nature,” McCorison said, a fact that is helping shape the future of the program.
The vision statement will help guide the next meeting on May 21, where an action plan will be developed for the three-year program.
Langenbrunner said it’s not too late to get involved. The group will be looking for new voices and input throughout the three years of the action plan. She added that all ages are welcome—participation is not limited to the oldest and youngest generations in the community.
“We want as many people to engage as possible,” she said.
The meeting will be held Tuesday, May 21 at 5 p.m. in the Two Harbors High School community room. Dinner is provided and a prize giveaway takes place at the end of the meeting.