Weaver (2nd from right) with Ms. Jackie Jenkins-Scott, President of Wheelock College (2nd from left) and members of the Award Committee.
Andrea Fonte Weaver, Founder & Executive Director of Bridges Together Inc., was recognized for her accomplishments recently by Wheelock College when she was presented with the Elizabeth Palmer Peabody Award at Wheelock’s Alumni Symposium on Saturday, March 22, 2014. The award honors the work of a graduate alumna/us whose work exemplifies the mission of Wheelock College, to improve the quality of life for children and families, and who has also demonstrated a commitment to finding unity in all types of diversity.
In her nomination, Kathryn Portnow, Ed. D., Instructor of Human Development at Wheelock College, wrote:
Anyone who has met Andrea Fonte Weaver knows that she has a passion for uniting the generations and helping people to realize how much we have in common – regardless of our age, and background. She has skillfully chosen to use this passion to direct her career for the past 20 years founding Bridges Together, a nonprofit organization dedicated to intergenerational programming. Ms. Weaver’s mission, both personally and professionally, is to joyfully unite the generations.
In 1991, she developed what would become an award winning curricula, Bridges: Growing Older, Growing Together. This program brings groups of older adults together with elementary school students to share experiences, learn from each other and develop appreciation for the similarities and differences they share. Today, more than 7500 students and 2500 seniors have benefited from this program. Each classroom teacher and senior volunteer coordinator has been carefully trained by Ms. Weaver who received her master’s in intergenerational studies from Wheelock in 1994. Now, through Bridges Together, she is creating similar programs for older volunteers and other age groups of students. These programs are in a dozen communities throughout Massachusetts – and as far away as Michigan.
Like Miss Peabody and Miss Wheelock, Ms. Weaver is cognizant of the world around her, and is truly a visionary. For example, by the year 2050, there will be more adults over the age of 65 than children under the age of 15. When today’s children “grow-up”, they will need to work alongside, to advocate for and help care for these elders. In order to do that, these young adults will need an intrinsic reason to reach out. However, at the same time that we have the “greying of our world”, we have fewer opportunities for the generations to come together in meaningful ways that has many ramifications. Perhaps the most serious is that our youth are not developing empathy and respect for elders and do not have an impetus to reach out.
Ms. Weaver is raising awareness of this societal change and proposes solutions; we must all strive to create meaningful intergenerational opportunities within our own circles. She now spends time educating professionals on how to successfully bring the generations together. Her work is revolutionary in that she incorporates three fundamental practices which are uniquely integrative and unifying of diverse pedagogical-educational, psychological-theoretical and organizational perspectives. These are as follows:
1. Developing a leadership team with members of different organizations.
2. Building on lifespan developmental theories which focus on the physical, emotional, social, intellectual, spiritual domains in human growth and transformation
3. Incorporating the best practices of the field of intergenerational studies, volunteer management and pedagogy today, including supporting the national core educational standards.
Ms. Weaver, just like Ms. Peabody, is able to promote unity among the generations and offers concrete solutions for creating intergenerational opportunities. These opportunities implemented through Ms. Weaver’s programs embrace and foster a reciprocal appreciation of diversity. Bridges Together, its trainings, curricula, and programs, ultimately help children better understand and cherish elders and their own grandparents as they learn from and with them. In turn, the adult educators and elders are teaching and learning from the children. Lucy Wheelock believed that education is key to the “…uplift of the community and that it grow[s] out of and feed[s] back into the deepest currents and deepest needs of the community” (Byrd & Clayton, September 14, 2011). For over 20 years Andrea Fonte Weaver has exemplified the ideals of Lucy Wheelock and Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, educating children, families and teachers to speak to modern day currents and needs facing elders, adults and children. Thus, I heartily nominate Andrea Fonte Weaver for the Elizabeth Palmer Peabody Award.
For more information on the Award, please visit the Wheelock website.