This editor has watched numerous “rose” ceremonies on a popular television show, but nothing was as powerful or emotional as the interchanges between Sages and Seekers at Palisades High School on March 20.
A high school student, after reading a tribute to his/her Sage gave the person a copy of the essay, which contained a photo of the two of them. The teen then handed that person a rose.
Earlier this year, Circling the News put out the request: a nonprofit, Sages & Seekers, is looking for Sages, adults 60+, in the Pacific Palisades Community to pair with Seekers, students ages 15-24 at Palisades High School. This program is an effort to diminish ageism, and build empathy between seniors and teens.
The program has been called “a mental health program because it provides students with a nonjudgmental listener to talk to about their problems.” The other key is students are off social media and interacting, holding a real conversation.
Fourteen Sages signed up and came to Palisades High School for 75 minutes once a week for eight weeks.
The program starts with a “speed dating” round, where the Seekers and Sages meet for a short conversation. Afterwards, each Sage is paired with a Seeker by the facilitator.
During the seven weeks, students learned about Sages’ lives. All were successful, but many did not take a straight career path and made it clear to the teens that it was okay to not know about the future and have a definitive career choice.
At the culmination meeting, a Seeker and Sage go to the front of the classroom, and everyone listens as the Seeker describes what they’ve learned.
“I’ve looked forward to sitting and talking to you the past weeks,” a Seeker said, adding, that through his Sage he learned about “how to live your life to the fullest” and learned more confidence through the pair’s interaction. “I’m more relaxed.”
Through the Sage, he felt he learned that “it will eventually all work out,” that failure wasn’t the end all. “A big thank you for all the help and compassion,” the student concluded.
His Sage was allowed to comment and admitted that initially she didn’t feel the two had a lot in common, but “it worked out and I was really pleased.”
The facilitator said that several Sages worried about having something in common, but the real key, is that students needed a nonjudgmental lister.
One Sage aptly said, “Conversation is the cornerstone of humanity.”
Another said, “I felt like I got insights into a young person’s mind.”’
Students were appreciative of their conversations with those 60+. One said, “I loved being able to laugh!”
Another said, “You’ve given me a new outlook on life. I appreciate the time you’ve given me. Spending time with you helped me realize there is no need to be perfect.”
Another student said his Sage spoke about going to MIT, but then decided it wasn’t for him. “If you’re unsure about what to do with your life, it’s okay,” the student said. “These past few Mondays have the been the highlight of my life.”
His Sage said he had worked as an alumni interviewer for his college, in which he was required to listen. But he said he particularly liked the back and forth that this program provided. “I look forward to doing it again.”
Over and over students said they learned that “even if you feel small and alone, you are not.”
And that, “even with age, we are own worst critics. No matter what happens, this, too shall pass. I will always make it. Life goes own.”
One Sage said that the Monday sessions were “like having a good visit with a friend.” She then looked at the teen and said, “Thank you, sweetheart.”
Sages and Seekers agreed, “It has been a transformative experience.” And “I’m so happy I came to do this.”
Results of our one-year study funded by the National Endowment for the Arts showed that Sages & Seekers intergenerational storytelling intervention increased adolescents’ reported sense of social connectedness, psychological wellbeing, and purpose-in- life, and especially so for participants with the lowest initial levels.
Those in the PaliHi program spoke about fear, courage, and “it’s a choice to regret something.” The Sages provided their experiences, which in some cases was a lifetime of tradeoffs, and also emphasized the importance of family.
Sages also provided encouragement. One told her Seeker, “You are the sweetest, smartest person and I can’t wait to see what you do in life.”
The program is free, and four to five more Palisades Sages are sought for a seven-week program that will run on Thursdays, from April 17 through June 5.
Sages and Seekers Executive Director Elly Katz said “We have a huge waitlist for Seekers, so we would love to have Sages to fill the spots. People can enroll https://sagesandseekers.org/enroll/
Will the program continue next year?
They’re actually seeking a few more people for the last session this year. I’m not sure about next year. I hope so, it is really a lovely program.