“Bridging Communities” in Detroit

I came across an inspiring story of youth in Detroit stepping up to help the elderly. Although this act of kindness happened almost a year ago, it holds just as much emotional potency as before.

In a Detroit community, an elderly woman reached out to Bridging Communities- a nonprofit collaboration of local unions, residents and businesses- needing help with her taxes, and in fear that she would lose her home. Her house was literally covered in ivy and she had no way of removing it! To make matters worse, the city sent her a letter stating that her house would be demolished.


Home prior to clean up effort.

Youth volunteers immediately took action by helping remove the ivy and overgrowth from the home. Neighbors praised the young volunteers for helping the community feel and look more appealing. However, the most rewarding moment for the group was knowing that the senior resident would now be able to live in her home without fear of losing it.


“Bridging Communities” volunteers

I applaud these volunteers! Actions like this prove that younger people can help with more than just technology. This is what Mentor Up is all about!

Check out the full story here.


Mentor Up Cleveland – Thoughts from Vanessa Jackson

Being a part of the Mentor Up team in Washington, D.C. is great! We get to be at ground zero for something really exciting. But sometimes I am curious to know what Mentor Up looks like in other places. I often wonder, “Is all of this making a difference?” “Is what we are doing really reaching people?” “Are we actually making an impact?” And just when these thoughts begin to creep in like a pestilence to tear you down, WE GET JUST WHAT WE NEED!

Meet Vanessa Jackson! She is our Mentor Up coordinator in Cleveland, Ohio. It warms our hearts to see Mentor Up in action outside of our immediate grasp. It reassures us that what we’re doing here, is helping make a difference out there.

Here’s what she has to say about Mentor Up in Cleveland:

“I am a fifty something woman who loves technology and computers.  I am also the Mentor Up Coordinator in Cleveland Ohio.  Our Mentor UP team was established through an AARP foundation grant.  We are located in the Magic Johnson Community Empowerment Center at University Settlement. This is the ideal job for me.  It combines my love of technology, community service and project management.  I love guiding the Millennial Digital Mentors as we share knowledge and get my peers connected to the world.                          


Mentor Up Cleveland – Music with Seniors

 I am not new to technology. My career started when I wrote code lines that corrected magazine subscription labels.  The codes were translated to computer punch cards that created commands for computers that filled up rooms. I somehow gravitated to the IT folks at every job I had. I have worked at a couple of tech related companies in different capacities. I finally ventured into the realm of technology as a user group member and later as a business analyst.   

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Cleveland Community Family Festival

Women my age are the target audience for Mentor Up. There is a wide range of interest in, and knowledge of, technology among Baby Boomers. I email with my aunt in her 70’s, text my nephew and chat on Facebook with my niece in the Peace Corps in Africa.  I am excited about working with the Digital Mentors here in Cleveland.  We are doing both one-on-one and classroom training sessions. The team has given a tech expo and “game show” at the AARP Foundation SCSEP office.  We even “chaperoned” and photographed the “senior” Prom for University Settlement’s Adult Wellness group.

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Cleveland Community Family Festival

I am learning so much about the future of technology through my daily work with the Digital Mentors. They have given me a fresh perspective on technology and its uses in day-to-day life. We work in Google hangouts and keep or documents “in the cloud”.  I am even back in school studying IT service and support. The world of technology is wide and deep, and changing at light speed. Everything is at your fingertips. Mentor Up is helping me to keep connected through technology, community, education and employment.”  

Intern Lunch Brainstorm Session

Last week Mentor Up convened here at the National Headquarters of AARP in Washington, D.C. to talk about the Youth Mentor Up Challenge. Interns from all across AARP and AARP Foundation gathered to discuss the challenge. Prior to this brainstorm session, we debated how much information we should give the interns. Should we give them an overview of the challenge? Should we brief them on what Mentor Up is? Should we give them no information or as little as possible to prevent stifling creativity?

After running in circles for a while we finally agreed on the latter. We chose the mysterious route and invited 20 interns to an unspecified meeting to discuss an unidentified topic. We hoped to cultivate fresh ideas from providing minimum context. We soon discovered this was not the best route to go. Although in doing so we learned that free pizza is a great incentive to get people’s attention! ☺

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After introducing the challenge question – “How might we inspire and engage young people to support older adults through mentorship?” – we hoped to have a resounding amount of participation and fresh ideas.
However, this was not the case!

We were met with hesitation, confusion, reluctance…

After a few moments of uninterrupted quiet and blank stares, we had to find a way to break the sound barrier. We decided to break up into 3 smaller groups to make interacting feel more like a discussion rather than a meeting (we did hijack the board room after-all…it can be an intimidating atmosphere!). After collaborating within the small groups for a while we reconvened as a unified cohort and gave the large discussion another shot.

Each group nominated a spokesperson to share their thoughts with the rest of the room. By the end of it, we had transformed one side of the boardroom into an idea wall! We decorated the glass windows with Post-It notes to create a collective thought bank with some really great ideas!

This brainstorm session was a very insightful experience for Mentor Up. However, not giving the interns any context produced many similar, if not duplicate, ideas to what Mentor Up is already doing/has discussed.
This rehashing was not counterproductive though; it helped reaffirm and validate Mentor Up’s current course.
This brainstorm session confirmed that Mentor Up is headed in the right direction.

Mentoring Without Realizing

My name is Helen Amanuel and I am a new intern to the Mentor Up team. The activities Mentor Up participates in and leads are things that I and so many others do on an everyday, weekly, or even monthly basis without even realizing it. Before I was officially part of the Mentor Up team I didn’t realize that I was already a mentor to family members and others close to me. I was sharing with them the ways of smart phones, Facebook, or just other knowledge that I know and they did not. Mentor Up has just made me that more excited to share my knowledge; not just toward my family, but expanding to my community!


When my grandmother retired from her nursing job, my uncle thought it would be a good idea to get her away from her old flip phone. He gave her a brand new iPhone that she unfortunately had no idea how to use. I took it upon myself to spend time helping her use the new technology. I showed her how to take pictures, text, facetime, and even how to add apps! Now I’ll see her taking selfies at family gathering without a problem, or even sending me cute (fairly long) text messages asking how I’ve been!  It not only helped her increase her technological knowledge and connect better with her family but I got to spend some much needed time with her.

Mentor Up’s creed is “What You Know is What They Need.” So why not give back to those that have helped us our entire lives and shaped the world we live in now?


Teaching the Wise

Hello Everyone!

My name is Theo Winfield, new to the Mentor Up Team. Mentor Up focuses on inspiring and engaging young people, ages 15-24, for mentoring and community service opportunities that help older Americans.

Let’s be honest, when someone says “community service” thoughts of hard work and long hours naturally come to mind. Believe me, I have those thoughts too! Before I became involved in Mentor Up, I HATED community service, and I wasn’t exactly the best people’s person either. I was the guy who would try to socialize with new people, but weird, Chewbacca noises would come out. So anyways, what makes Mentor Up any different? Maybe a little background will help explain: Image

“Family is everything.” I hold this value close to my heart. No matter the situation or time of day my family is always there for each other. My grandparents live over an hour and half away, from my home, at a farm in Courtland, VA. At a certain age, the human body begins to slow down and prevent people from doing everyday activities- this happened to my grandparents when I was 13 years old. My father and mother drive my younger brother and me to the countryside every weekend to assist my grandparents with as much as possible. We help with basic tasks like mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, cooking meals, and everything in between; yet, I didn’t notice the other ways I am influencing their lives until I joined the Mentor Up team. Through the years of assistance, my grandparents started to learn how to take control of their lives in the changing world. I remember overhearing my grandmother and grandfather discussing new ways to ensure better income and how to form better communication with friends and family. But how could I have made such an impact at a young age?

It’s in the conversations!

My father, mother, brother, and I are unknowingly playing roles as ‘mentors.’ My brother and I explaining to my grandparents how our tablets work; my dad explaining how they can receive news updates 24/7 on smartphones; my mother discussing how selling items online would reach a larger audience. These conversations my family share with my grandparents continuously introduce my grandmother and grandfather to solutions to issues relevant to their lives.

This is why Mentor Up is amazing! It takes the natural teaching skills found in young Americans and allows them to utilize those skills to help older adults. It’s a reverse mentorship- the younger person is the mentor and the older person is the mentee! Both parties are gaining important knowledge and skills! For instance, mentors will be able to enhance their interpersonal skills, valuable in every career path, and the mentees will be able to directly strengthen his/her business or life.

Mentor Up is providing an opportunity for people to help older adults find stability in the world. Together we can make a difference!

“What You Know is What They Need.”


Nico’s Perspective

It’s been one month since the Life@50 conference in Boston and people are still talking about it!

The energy hasn’t died yet!

 The event was a gigantic production; a long, but rewarding process for everyone involved. What was really amazing though was the dedication of our volunteers. We wouldn’t have been able to pull it off without them!

Nico was one of those volunteers.


He braved the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center’s showroom floor putting himself right in the thick of the action!


“I helped mostly with technology: tablets, twitter, instagram and other social media. I helped them connect to the world”

Nico was a consistent presence throughout the entire conference, choosing to Mentor Up each day.

So why did he do it?

Why did he volunteer his entire weekend?

Luckily he told us exactly why!

Here’s what he had to say about it all:

Its a good way to give back what I knowWhat I know can benefit other people.

 I think a lot of people dont understand that we grew up with this technology, and it comes easier to us than older people who didnt. 


“I taught somebody how to make a twitter. It was a good experience because I helped her make the account and then saw her on twitter using hash-tags and understanding the technology.”

I felt like a better person knowing that my knowledge can help others.

Boston was my first time doing something like thatyeah, I would do it again!


Thanks to all our volunteers who helped us accomplish this feat!







Remembering those who have conquered cancer, Mentor Up says, “Happy National Cancer Survivors’ Day”

I can still remember my mom and grandparents sitting me down to tell me she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. My mother was 31…I was 12… I can’t even describe how scary that was for me…

I remember thinking, “of all people, why her? She’s such a good person”… It’s a lot for a kid to take in… The worst part were her chemo and radiation treatments… She was always tired…always sick…always sad, especially when her hair began falling out…she just wasn’t the mommy I knew…

I was in 7th grade then. I believe it was my freshman year of college when she was finally finished with her radiation treatments… and now? She’s living… she doesn’t stress like she used to before she was diagnosed. I think she’s realized that life could always be worse and that she’s still here to continue living her life to the fullest… oh, and when her hair grew back…it was FLAWLESS!

I have a heavy history of breast cancer alone… My mother, my paternal grandmother, my maternal great grandmother and my paternal great grandmother..and that’s all I can remember at the moment… Also, my grandfather had prostate cancer… So, it’s safe to say, cancer has affected a lot of people in my family.

So today, I say “CONGRATS!”, to those of you who have not only had cancer, but survived it! Also, this is an important day for those who have been affected emotionally by their loved ones who have seen just how bad cancer can be…

The National Cancer Survivors’ Day Foundation is asking you all to celebrate with them in recognizing the dynamic group of people who have survived cancer… Their statement is below…

“On Sunday, June 1, 2014, cancer survivors across the globe will unite to show the world what life after cancer looks like. This unique celebration will mark the 27th annual National Cancer Survivors Day®. Thousands of people in hundreds of communities across the U.S. and abroad will hold celebrations on this day to honor cancer survivors and to show that there is life after a cancer diagnosis – and it’s something to celebrate.

National Cancer Survivors Day is an annual worldwide Celebration of Life. It is the one day each year that we come together to honor everyone who is living with a history of cancer – including America’s 14 million cancer survivors. “A ‘survivor’ is anyone living with a history of cancer – from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life,” according to the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation, administrator for the celebration.

NCSD provides an opportunity for cancer survivors to connect with other survivors, celebrate milestones, and recognize the healthcare providers, family, and friends who have supported them along the way. It is a day for cancer survivors to stand together and show the world what life after cancer looks like.

“Sometimes people have very negative ideas of what life after cancer looks like,” says Foundation spokesperson, Laura Shipp. “But the reality is that more people are living longer and better quality lives after cancer than ever before. These survivors are showing us that life after cancer can be meaningful, exciting, and filled with joy.

“National Cancer Survivors Day is an opportunity for cancer survivors to come together and celebrate this new reality in cancer survivorship. There is life after cancer. It may not be the same as before cancer, but it can be beautiful, rewarding, and sometimes even better than before. And that’s something to celebrate.”

NCSD activities will be as diverse as the communities where the events are being held and will include parades, carnivals, walks, races, art exhibits, health fairs, inspirational programs, and more. There will be laughter and tears, shouts of joy and moments of quiet reflection, hope for the future and strength to endure today, and maybe even a little music and dancing.

The National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation is encouraging everyone to participate in their community’s event. To locate the one nearest you, check with your local cancer treatment center, hospital, or American Cancer Society office. Or you can host an event of your own. The NCSD website, ncsd.org, has everything you need to plan a successful NCSD celebration.

NCSD started in the United States in 1987 and is now celebrated worldwide in countries including Canada, Australia, India, South Africa, Greece, Great Britain, Spain, and Nigeria, according to Shipp.

The nonprofit National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation provides free guidance, education, and support to hundreds of hospitals, support groups, and other cancer-related organizations that host National Cancer Survivors Day events in their communities. The Foundation’s primary mission is to bring awareness to the issues of cancer survivorship in order to better the quality of life for cancer survivors.

Cancer survivors may face physical, emotional, social, and financial challenges as a result of their cancer diagnosis and treatment. Many are confronted with limited access to specialists, a lack of information about promising new treatments, inadequate or no insurance, difficulty finding employment, and psychosocial struggles.

“To say that cancer is challenging is an understatement,” says Shipp. “But it is a challenge that millions of people – 14 million in the U.S. alone – are overcoming. The NCSD Foundation hopes that through National Cancer Survivors Day, we can not only bring awareness to the issues survivors face but also honor for the courage and strength of all those who are living with a history of cancer.”

The National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation is encouraging a greater commitment to resolving quality of life issues for cancer survivors. “More resources, research, and increased public awareness are needed to improve the quality of life of cancer survivors,” says Shipp. “Because of advances in modern medicine, cancer survivors are now living much longer after diagnosis. However, long-term survivorship poses its own unique challenges. We need to do a better job of addressing the hardships survivors face beyond treatment.”

Leading up to the event, the Foundation urges everyone – cancer survivors and supporters alike – to show the world what life after cancer looks like. The following are suggested posts for your social media sites.

On Facebook: Let’s show the world what life after cancer looks like! Celebrate life on National Cancer Survivors Day – Sunday, June 1. facebook.com/CancerSurvivorsDay

On Twitter: Let’s show the world what life after cancer looks like! Celebrate life on National Cancer Survivors Day, June 1. #NCSD2014@SurvivorsDay

National Cancer Survivors Day 2014 is sponsored nationally by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Coping with Cancer magazine, with support from Amgen, Astellas, Genentech, Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company, and Teva Oncology.


What is a Millennial…exactly?

This morning, I was able to attend the event, A New America: How Millennials Are Sparking Change presented by the National Journal. I wasn’t exactly sure what was in store, but I will say it opened my eyes to many new things…

This term “Millennial” seems to become more and more popular each day….and for a while I wasn’t even sure what it meant…

According to the web dictionary, a Millennial is “a person born in the 1980s or 1990s, especially in the U.S.; a member of Generation Y”. WhatIs.com defines a Millennial as “the last generation born in the 20th century”.

So I gather that means anyone born between 1980-1999, could be considered a Millennial. That includes me and that’s pretty cool. I didn’t even know my generation had a name.

First, this event seemed a little too political for my taste… BUT everything correlated somehow. Representative Tulsi Gabbard began the morning, striking a chord with me when she mentioned getting Millennials involved with politics.

“How do you get younger people involved with politics? You empower them and involve them in conversation. They are a generation that is turned off by rhetoric and inspired by action. What are you road blocks and how do we move them?”- Representative Tulsi Gabbard

I can’t even begin to explain why this meant so much to me. There have been countless times when I feel as if my opinion didn’t matter because of my age or because those who are older than I am, don’t believe that I know what I’m talking about. Yeah, that’s a myth. Millennials are pretty smart to be so young. Also, we’re equipped with a lot of visions and ideas that are worth mentioning and considering. It’s nice to know that there are some older adults who take our opinions seriously.

“This is the great generation 2.0. They’re changing entrepreneurship. They’re changing marketing. They make their own rules”- James Brown, Executive Director of STEM Education Coalition

The part I love most about being categorized as a Millennial is the “legacy” that’s behind it. Known for being the innovative movers and shakers of the nation, Millennials are rising in ways that I’m sure no one could ever imagine. There were many rules before I went to college and I can’t help but notice just how much they’ve changed in the past 5 years alone. The rules were simple:

  1. Graduate from High School
  2. Go to College
  3. Find a Good Job
  4. Find the Love of Your Life
  5. Get Married
  6. Have Babies

And that was it… Now? I graduated from high school…I’m currently in my last year of college…while interning at many different places so I can get my DREAM job…and marriage is the LAST thing on my mind. The “curriculum” as we knew it has severely changed…and in my opinion, for the better.

One quote that describes my current mindset: “It’s as if Millennials have a little clock ticking in their heads. They’re like, I know my life is limited and I have a little time to impact this world”- Stefanie Brown James, CEO and Founding Partner of Vestige Strategies, LLC

In my mind, I have a MILLION different ideas constantly running…and it feels like there’s not enough time to get them all out. Although there’s limited time, Millennials have a special knack for organizing and sharing the billions of ideas that we all possess…and most times, they correlate…Even better.

The last bit of this event that made me think was the discussion of “Reverse Interns”..why? Because it has A LOT to do with Mentor Up. We Reverse Mentor. Millennials are seen as a hot commodity to organizations, not because of their intelligence and efficiency, but more so because they can aid their employers in the ways of the internet and specifically, social media. Twitter and Facebook are what’s hot right now. Everyone knows this. However, as I stated in my last post, to some newcomers, it can be a bit overwhelming and intimidating. That’s where we come in. What do Millennials attract? Other Millennials and companies see that. We are an asset. We just have to believe in that.

Being a Millennial is pretty dope. Had I known I fit the characteristics and age bracket of a Millennial, I would have started calling myself one awhile ago 🙂

“This may sound corny, but I know I learned more from them than they could ever learn from me…” Life @ 50 Boston Recap #MentorUp #LifeAt50 #AARPTEK

First… Let me just say, that this was my first time going to Boston… and it was really nice. The weather was great… the food was amazing… I wouldn’t mind going back…

However, that isn’t the point of this post.

I spent about 4 days working with Mentor Up and AARP TEK at the Life @ 50 event in Boston and I’d have to say it was really eye opening…

It was kind of like a Teen Summit for older adults…and they were pretty awesome…

This may sound corny, but I know I learned more from them than they could ever learn from me.

Most of my time was spent in the “Social Media/Selfie” booth. One thing I noticed? Older adults are really not that far behind technologically…well at least the ones I met. Most…if not all of them had smart phones…or iPads…or Kindles…and here I am with an iPhone 4s feeling so behind…


In my honest opinion…selfies and social media can be a bit intimidating. I say that because we all have a slight fear of the unknown. I had one woman tell me she was scared to make a Facebook because there is little to no privacy (which I can’t disagree there) and she was afraid that she would lose all of her investments…

You all may think that’s bizarre, but I received plenty of answers like that. It even made me a little sad. One couple came by and said, “We don’t take selfies because you always have to look good and we don’t wanna always have to look good to take a picture”. A lot of the older adults felt like selfies can cause self-esteem issues amongst the youth…which I can totally agree with….

BUT…there were plenty of older adults who wanted to take a selfie…just not by themselves.

Millenia with some of our Mentor Up Youth.

Millennia with some of our Mentor Up Youth.

Millennia, a talking social media promoting robot, was a RIOT! Everyone wanted to take a picture or dance or talk to Millennia…. It was pretty cool. For more information about who and what Millennia is… visit the International Robotics site… It’s pretty dope!

I had a few people come up and ask me how to download and use certain apps such as Facebook, Gmail and many others…someone even asked me to download the Bible app for them, which I thought was great! Also, I asked one man if he owned a smart phone so he could get a picture with Millennia and he replied, “Nope. I got me a dumb phone”…it took me 5 whole minutes to get what he was talking about and it still makes me laugh now…

The one woman that I learned from the most was someone who was totally against social media…at first.

She was 65 years old and had a pretty rough life story. I asked her if she owned a smart phone and she said yes so then I asked do you have a Facebook or a Twitter account. She looked at me as if I had asked her to birth my children.

Her response and “lecture” after that was what changed my perspective on older adults and social media. She said:

“What’s the point of having those things?! Yes, I know I can keep up with my grandchildren and yes, I know I can talk to my friends…BUT….I could also, pick up the phone and call them. You people know how to create twitter better and more efficient that you can do your times tables in your head! Where would you be without your precious technology?! How did you ever communicate before technology? I swear…you all need to learn math and science in your head before you Google everything. You all are spoon fed. I’m 65 and I have been where you all are now. You all haven’t seen how life is for me right now.”

Some would have been offended by what she said…actually, some were. But, strangely I wasn’t. I mean, before MySpace and Gmail and Facebook and Twitter…we used the house phone or just went to each other’s houses. I find myself being dependent on my phone or my laptop. And the sad reality is…I’m not the only one. However, I needed her to understand that technology may be scary…but it isn’t all bad.

I simply said…

“You know what? You’re right. We are dependent on technology…totally and completely. And yes, your kids and grandkids and friends can call you…but I think what people love about technology is that it’s fast and convenient. In the time it takes your grandkids to call you and probably get your voicemail, they can send you a text and you’ll receive it right then. Facebook is cool because you get to visually see what your friends and family are up to. There are privacy settings that can prevent the creeps from getting all of your information and YOU control what is put onto your profile. I hate to say it but social media is where the world is gravitating…and I wouldn’t want you to lose contact with those you love in the process. You’re so smart and witty…it would be nothing for you to pick up social media quickly and even become a wiz at it…just try and give it a chance”

She laughed and said she would let me set up a Facebook account as long as I added all of her friends and grandchildren (and this woman was POPULAR!)…then I had to adjust all of her privacy settings…

The expo was 2 weeks ago… You know that same woman is still on Facebook and she’s being careful and smart? It’s little things like that, that make me realize just how much I love my job and why I do this…

When aiding an older adult, be patient…THAT’S NUMBER ONE. It’s not that they’re “stupid”…that’s a complete myth… But, social media is something new and scary for some of them.

Overall feelings from the Expo?  Ecstatic. Exhausted. Anxious. Revitalized. Intrigued.