Here’s an easy way to help make a difference in the lives of children who need champions: Vote for your favorites among the 15 semi-finalists for The Encore Prize: Generation to Generation Challenge.
Encore.org, a nonprofit dedicated to building a brighter future for future generations, created The Encore Prize (actually, two prizes of $50,000 apiece). The winners will be organizations or individuals with “innovative solutions that utilized experienced talent to serve youth.” It’s part of Encore’s Generation to Generation five-year campaign mobilizing 1 million adults over 50 to help young people thrive.
“What makes children successful in life are many factors, but the most salient is the engagement of a community of caring adults,” said Claas Ehlers, president of Family Promise, a Summit, N.J.-based nonprofit helping families with kids experiencing homelessness and one of the 15 Encore Prize semi-finalists. In his recent TEDx Talk, “How to Live Forever,” Encore.org CEO and founder Marc Freedman ascribed boomers and Gen X’ers making these connections as “the generativity revolution.”
Voting for The Encore Prize Semi-finalists
You have until Aug. 31 to cast your votes among the 15 big ideas. Encore.org is letting people vote for up to five semi-finalists once a day until the deadline. The finalists will be announced Sept. 12 and the Encore prizes — one chosen by the finalists and one awarded by a panel of judges — will be handed out on Oct. 16 in Boston.
“Our 15 semi-finalists represent the diversity and creativity of the ideas we received — from supporting overwhelmed parents as they care for infants to helping young people get into college and find their footing in the world,” said Janet Oh, director of The Encore Prize. “We applaud the passion for intergenerational relationships so clearly evident in all the ideas and are thrilled to shine a light on these social innovators.”
What the Prize Hopefuls Want to Do
Most of the semi-finalists focus on ways older adults can mentor kids, by helping the youngsters chart their careers, get into college or raise their self-esteem. One of them, Journey to Success/Child & Family Service in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, cleverly says it serves “twinkle to wrinkle.” Other semi-finalists want to unleash multigenerational initiatives by teaching kids sports and games (boxing, basketball and chess), financial literacy and reading.
Many of the ideas come from nonprofits, but one bubbled up from a mayor’s office in San Jose and two from colleges — Iowa State University and LaGuardia Community College in New York City.
“We were astounded at the resonance this idea has for such a wide range of organizations and individuals,” said Jim Emerman, executive vice president of Encore.org. The Encore Prize received 181 submissions.
The Encore Prize is funded by The John Templeton Foundation and the MetLife Foundation and has the support of Aging 2.0, IDEO, the MFA in Social Innovation at the School of Visual Arts, the Milken Center on the Future of Aging, the Stanford Center on Longevity and the Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute.
Teaching Financial Literacy to Homeless Kids
As the editor of Next Avenue’s Money & Security channel, I was especially taken by Family Promise’s Encore Prize entry to develop a financial literacy curriculum for children experiencing homelessness. The goal: training and deploying 10,000 encore-stage adults to serve as financial literacy coaches to 15,000 of these kids through Family Promise’s 207 affiliate locations around the country.
This program would be an outgrowth of the financial literacy instruction Family Promise already offers adults. “It’s been incredibly successful and people have said to me, ‘Gee, it would be great to have something for kids,'” said Ehlers.
The coaches wouldn’t need to be financial professionals, Ehlers told me. In fact, he added, those experts might need special training. “They want to talk about Roth IRAs,” Ehlers joked. Family Promise wants to instead teach essentials such as needs vs. wants and math in the real world. The instruction, Ehlers said, might ultimately “blossom into college-prep and workforce prep and life skills.”
The Leading Vote-getters
At the moment, Family Promise is the top vote-getter among the semi-finalists, with 1,181 votes. (You can read about all 15 semi-finalists at The Encore Prize site.) The four contenders right behind Family Promise:
- Hire Autism’s plan to match 500 adults 50+ as job advocates for 2,000 young job seekers with autism
- Pushy Moms, from LaGuardia Community College, aiming to replicate its program pairing experienced moms over 50 with low-income, first-generation community college students who want to transfer to four-year schools
- One Body Collaboratives, of Rockford, Ill., which wants to connect encore-stage adults with local youth and youth-serving organizations to tutor, mentor and provide professional services and transportation to needy kids, ultimately expanding this to 12 cities and serving 14,400 youth
- Neighbor Ed/Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin, looking to partner with Boys & Girls Clubs to create 14 “educating neighborhoods” connecting older “block connectors” and “neighbor-teachers” with middle- and high-school kids in its area
“Obviously, we’d like to win,” said Ehlers. “But if we don’t, I won’t be overly disappointed. Every semi-finalist organization is fantastic and they’ve all come up with game-changing proposals.”
In his TEDx talk, Freedman cited developmental psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner’s spot-on quote: “What every kid needs is at least one adult who is irrationally crazy about him or her.” When you vote for Encore Prize semi-finalists, you’ll help find those adults and give kids what they desperately need.
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