Civic Engagement

Crossing Paths is an intergenerational discussion program that brings small groups of teens and older adults together once per week for meaningful, thought-provoking discussions on a variety of topics. Adult volunteers are able to share their life experiences and make connections with youth. Students are able to hear the perspectives of an older generation, work on communication skills, and tell their own stories.

ETA’s Crossing Paths projects take place in many different settings, but they all bring older adults and young people together to:

  • Get beyond chit chat and have meaningful conversations with each other over time

  • Learn about each other’s lived experiences in different generations and cultures

  • Gain perspective on history and hope for the future 

Get Started!

Adults age 50+, complete our volunteer application to join ETA’s Crossing Paths Volunteer Corps and get notifications about upcoming groups.

Groups leaders (youth or older adult), contact us directly for information about bringing Crossing Paths to your group.

What to Expect

  • Each Crossing Paths program is approximately 7 weeks long, including one volunteer orientation and 6 interactive sessions with teens.
  • We offer groups in the Fall (Oct-Dec), Winter (Jan-March), and Spring (March-May).
  • Each weekly session consists of an approx. hour-long joint discussion, and a quick volunteer debrief (timing may be adjusted as needed)
  • Currently, all groups meet online.
  • ETA staff are present at all sessions to host the online meeting, create breakout rooms, moderate as needed, and lead debriefing sessions.
  • We work with student groups ranging from 4 to 30+ students, but conversations take place in small subgroups of 2 adults and 3-5 students.
  • Groups are consistent from week to week, to help you get to know each other and deepen the conversation.

Themes

The student groups we work with choose one of the follow themes for each session:

Theme 1: Identity, Choices, & Meaning

Participants will discuss identity and values formation, through the lens of home and family, heritage, school life and education, college and career, and life choices/life lessons. They will have the opportunity to reflect more deeply on their everyday lives, thinking about how their past has led them to today, and where their path could go in the future.

Theme 2: Civic Engagement

Participants will explore the meaning of community: what defines their own communities and what makes an “ideal” community. They will think about issues that affect their communities, who has power to affect those issues, and the different forms of leadership and change-making. With the support of their group, each individual will create, execute, and reflect on their own small-scale community engagement project.

Theme 3: Current Events

Participants will discuss a different current events topic each week. ETA staff selects topics from a list brainstormed by participants, aiming for a balance of international, national, and local issues. Participants will share their perspectives and be encouraged to consider what different perspectives might be, as well as how the issue relates to them at their generational stage. At the end of each week, we will watch or read a brief news item to give an introduction to the next week’s topic.

Theme 4: Silver Screenings – Watch & Discuss

Participants will watch a television excerpt or sitcom (20-30 min) each week together, then discuss what they saw, focusing on comparing the time period and themes of the show to their own experiences and to the world today. We’ll also look at the ways different generations are portrayed in the media. Shows are selected from the 1950s-2000s.

Crossing Paths