A model for transformation: youth and seniors in dialogue

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Young black men in the neighborhood of Morris Height in the Bronx have lost respect for the ability of the church and society to transform their lives, and have become alienated from both the church and social institutions. This paper documents a 2011 senior/youth project in which “Seasoned Seniors” of Calvary United Methodist Church in Morris Heights shared their life stories with the young men who “hang out” on the corner across the street, selling drugs. In the sharing of stories, the senior members of the church were able to pass along their own struggles against race and poverty, in order to create families and lives that can bring hope. Young men share their own stories that speak of their disconnection from hope in the future. It is the contention of the researcher, that in sharing these life stories, two groups who have been excluded from society, and whose wisdom is no longer considered valuable—seniors and youth—might forge new relations. With mentoring by the “Seasoned Seniors,” young men may find a path that does not include drug use and drug dealing, while seniors may find themselves empowered with voice that will be heard. The project is used as an opening round of a larger effort to expand the program throughout urban Methodist parishes, and ultimately to serve as a model for a program which treats intergenerational dialogue as a means to help young black men overcome the barriers they face and achieve their full potential.  
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