The Northland Foundation established the KIDS PLUS Program in 1990 to take a more active role in improving the well-being of children and youth. Thanks to cooperation among caring adults, energetic youth, and engaged communities throughout the region, northeastern Minnesota has become a state and national leader in valuing and nurturing our future generations.
The Proctor AGE to age group, G3 - Gathering Generations
for Greatness, recently hosted a community barbeque.
When the energy and enthusiasm of youth meets the wisdom and patience of elders, it creates a powerful spark. AGE to age: bringing the generations together is helping ten small northeastern Minnesota communities and reservations to harness this brilliant combination.
The Northland Foundation launched AGE to age in June 2008 with funding from the Community Experience Partnership, an aging initiative of The Atlantic Philanthropies. Where communities in the region once lacked an avenue to bring the young and not-so-young together, there is now a “place” to forge relationships and work together to solve local issues.
“As an older adult, we tend to talk to people our own age. It is so interesting to talk to young people; they have different concerns. I really enjoy the young people’s sense of humor and their boundless energy,” said retiree Tom Ward of Proctor, Minnesota.
The foundation has facilitated 42 meetings in seven towns and three Indian reservations, attracting 600 people age 55-plus and 320 young people ages 11 to 18. The awe-inspiring results? Locally driven projects that respect the uniqueness of each community. Among these projects are wellness, recreational, and volunteer opportunities; technology programs in which young people mentor older adults; and activities that help elders to share traditional culture, values, and way of life with youth.
One such example is the Bois Forte Reservation’s group, Anishanaabayoong: Past, Present, Future, in which reservation elders are teaching young people traditions such as beading and ricing. A serendipitous sidenote: the group’s gatherings have joined members of the geographically isolated Vermillion and Nett Lake communities in an exciting new way.
“This program has brought our two Reservation communities, which are located 60 miles from each other, together as a single community in a way that I have never before seen,” said Jeanine Whiteman, the Bois Forte AGE to age Coordinator.
The Northland Foundation is currently seeking matching funds to secure an additional Community Experience Partnership grant that will enable the ten AGE to age sites to expand their projects as well as underwrite replication efforts to share program design and lessons learned across the state and country.
The most powerful proof of AGE to age’s impact, however, hits at a much more personal level and signifies an important shift in how people of different ages perceive one another. Eleventh grader Kateisha Miller of Proctor, Minnesota expressed it well. “I am really glad our community has AGE to age. It’s fun to hang-out with people who are not your own age,” she said.
KIDS PLUS has evolved into a diverse array of initiatives that galvanize communities around the needs of children and young people, from infancy to adulthood.
KIDS PLUS Communities The first initiative of the KIDS PLUS Program has grown to 26 northeastern Minnesota communities that have committed to actively keep young people at the forefront of community conversation and to be intentional about valuing young people, viewing them as resources, and developing locally-driven programs for youth ages 10 to 18 years.
Twin Ports Youth Leadership Academy This unique leadership and service learning program engages ninth grade students and volunteer adult mentors from the neighboring communities of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin. A series of interactive sessions over a ten month period helps young participants develop valuable leadership, teamwork, and communication skills.
Youth in Philanthropy A grantmaking board of 8th-12th grade students from throughout the region is given the opportunity and responsibility to review and deliberate grant proposals, and award grant requests up to $1,000 each for youth-led service projects. Students gain firsthand experience with the art of giving, communication, group dynamics, and the value of community service.
Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative Established in 2003, this statewide collaboration of the Northland Foundation and five other Minnesota Initiative Foundations works at the community, regional, and state levels to improve early care and education. Their common goal is to ensure that all children have a healthy life of learning, achieving, and succeeding. Currently there are 12 Early Childhood Coalitions in northeastern Minnesota and 80 in all throughout rural Minnesota.
Minnesota Thrive Initiative This groundbreaking pilot program is focused on helping communities and families in rural Minnesota to better address the healthy social and emotional development of children birth to age five. Among its goals are building public awareness about infant and early childhood mental health; improving service access; and advocating for the mental health needs of young children and their families.
KIDS PLUS Institute Building on its years of experience in delivering training and meeting opportunities in the region, the foundation created the KIDS PLUS Institute as a formal venue to deliver meetings, training sessions, conferences, and presentations focused on child and youth development topics. National and international experts share their insights with a regional audience.
AGE to age: bringing generations together An intergenerational program that promotes understanding and brings together youth and older adults to design grassroots solutions to meet community needs. Projects that have been planned in AGE to age communities include fitness and recreation, cultural traditions shared between elders and youth, technology training, arts and crafts, and community beautification.
The ten AGE to age sites in northeastern Minnesota are shown below.