February 3, 2020

This startup helps teens and seniors learn from each other and bridge the digital divide

Here are three stories about the power of learning to create renewal to inspire you as you head into the weekend.

In New Mexico, the startup Teeniors pairs teens and seniors who learn from each other. Photo by Unkel/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Each week, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions people are creating in their communities. This week we’re looking at unique ways people are learning across the country. What are the innovative ideas in your hometown? Tell us at info@therenewalproject.com.

Breaking down tech barriers: All across New Mexico, teenagers are creating connections with senior citizens thanks to Teeniors, a startup company in Albuquerque. Founder Trish Lopez launched the business when she saw her mother struggling with her phone. Lopez, however, was too busy and unable to regularly give her a helping hand. With Teeniors, parents and grandparents now have the ability to request “tech support” from teenage coaches, who offer various skills, ranging from smartphone and computer coaching to software and printer help.

Since its inception, the Teeniors have personally tutored over 2,000 senior citizens. The risk of falling behind on new technology can lead to a sense of social isolation for seniors. At the same time, the program allows teenagers to develop certain skills, like patience and listening, that they can carry into their professional life.

“The intergenerational learning experience is really remarkable and that’s why I always say the main service we provide is not tech support. It is human connection,” Lopez told NPR.

Their day in court: Two people are charged with breaking and entering and robbery during a hurricane in 2016. Their fate is in the hands of 14 inmates who are acting as prosecutors, defense lawyers, witnesses, and even the bailiff in a mock trial hosted at the D.C. Jail. The trial was the culmination of a class taught by Georgetown Law student Anna Van Hollen, a volunteer with Georgetown University’s Street Law Program. For the women inmates who participated in it, the trial was a chance for them to exercise their newfound legal expertise.

Through the class, students learn legal principles, the ins and outs of courtroom proceedings, and how to prepare and give convincing legal arguments, among other things. “We learned what our constitutional rights are and how to see cases from all sides,” Shaseana Jackson, who played the role of prosecutor, told The Washington Post. “The law changes so much. It’s like the weather, subject to change.”

D.C. Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz, former head of the court’s criminal division, supervised the mock trial. “I am tremendously proud of you,” the judge told the students participants. “Each of you prepared. And if lawyers don’t prepare, they do a lousy job.”

Tell me a story: The city of Detroit recently hired its new Chief Storyteller, Eric Thomas Detroit was the first city to create such a role, which works closely with the Mayor’s office. Denver followed in its footsteps shortly after. As Chief Storyteller, Thomas will brainstorm new, creative ways to interact with residents and provide insight into the latest city happenings. The Mayor’s office originated the position as a way to reshape the narrative of the city to better reflect the compassion, enthusiasm, and innovative spirit of its residents. Part of Thomas’s goal is to give the residents a platform to express their concerns and to connect them to beneficial organizations and programs: “Detroiters deserve access to all the opportunities that exist within the city and I intend to make sure they know about them. It’s time that Detroiters owned the story of Detroit,” Thomas told The Michigan Chronicle.

The Renewal Project

The Renewal Project, made possible by Allstate, tells the stories of individuals and organizations who are solving problems in their communities.