On September 12, 2020, the first official Intergenerational Philosophy Circle between ten Rotary members, a friend of Rotary, and nine teens from Natural Highs-Healthy Alternatives to Drugs & Alcohol, was a huge success!

Natural Highs provides substance abuse prevention and intervention, mental health support, and leadership training for teens in order to increase the number of teens who live a healthy, sober lifestyle. BRC is partnering with this non-profit agency to help with financial and other types of support to enable the agency to provide critically needed services during this past summer and the current academic year.  That “other support” turns out to be four scheduled Intergenerational Philosophical Circles.

What inspired me to join the Philosophy Circle was reading that young people feel that adults relate to them only in a role – parent/teacher/counselor, and they missed meaningful heart conversations on an equal ground – just person to person. Teens often say the reason they are so peer-oriented is because they feel abandoned by adults in their lives. I signed up for the Philosophy Circle because I wanted to connect with youth on a person-to person level.

What did we do? Cynda Collins Arsenault, Linda Davidson, Stu Dolnick, Gary Kahn, Valerie Lipetz, Sam Pottinger, Norma Portnoy, Bill Rubin, Dorothy Rupert, and I all met on Zoom with the teens and executive director, Avani Dilger, to have the opportunity to talk with the “other” generation on the topic of Sharing Wisdom between Generations. Rotarians and teens alike agreed it was fun, and at the same time fulfilled a deeper wish to connect, listen, and to hear from each other.

Avani opened the meeting by having us introduce ourselves and share why we were there. She gave us a couple of questions to ponder before sending us into break-out rooms of 2 Rotarians and 2 teens. After 20 minutes, which went veerrry fast, we all returned to the large group to share our insights.

How do we know it was a huge success? Because we all left with smiles! The participating Rotarians want to return again in October and both students and adults felt the magic of connecting. Everyone expressed gratitude that three additional Circles are scheduled for October, November and December, and we all looked forward to getting to know each other further.

If you would like to be part of this great energy and experience and want to take part in any of the next three Intergenerational Philosophy Circles on October 10, November 7, or December 5, please contact Norma at normaportnoy1112@gmail.com.  They take place from 5:00-6:30 pm.

The heart-felt impact of the program on the students and adults is evidenced by these quotes:

“The Intergenerational Philosophy Circle provides a personally unprecedented opportunity to connect with older generations and get to compare our points of view. In today’s society, it is incredibly rare to speak with people many years ahead of me if it is not in a work role I.e. teachers, mental health professionals, etc. This broadened my view and understanding of how we aren’t all that separated even if it can feel that way. I am very grateful for this opportunity that Natural Highs provides!” (Student)

“What a great experience it was to exchange thoughts with “20 somethings“ that had open minds and interests. They had no prescribed “roles” attached to us. They had an equivalent interest in our thoughts and opinions! Very cool!! “ (Rotarian)

“Participating in the Philosophy Circle was very enjoyable and impactful for me. I have been experiencing a sense of isolation over the past few months and the Circle provided much needed connection. I was reminded of the beautiful richness that we each hold as human beings. I look forward to future Philosophy Circles!” (Student)

“I thoroughly enjoyed the Philosophy Circle.  The time in conversation with the young people went so fast!  There were a couple comments they made that really made me think and see things in a different way as I tried to understand their perspective.  I was also struck by the wisdom expressed and the maturity.  Way more than I had at that age!!”  (Rotarian)

“It was a profound experience for me to be a part of. In a breakout room we had a beautiful free-flowing conversation about the differences and misunderstandings between our respective generations. It became apparent to me that the real joy came not from the content of our discussion, but the mere experience of connection. The older Rotary folks were genuinely curious and excited to pick the brains of younger folks.(Student)

“It’s always special when I have an opportunity to speak with young people. I’m amazed at their savviness and openness. I was taken back a bit when it was said that race was still an issue. My hope is that future generations will live in peace.” (Rotarian)

“There’s an excitement in the air at these events, as younger and older participants delight in being able to talk to each other in an open, accepting atmosphere. There’s a craving in both populations for just such an opportunity – and this is it!” (Friend of Rotary)