Engaging youth around sustainability, education, human rights, social justice, and poverty
Through public dialogues and forums staged in Hawaii, Maeona Mendelson helped to spotlight young people’s perspectives on global and local issues and to engage young people in activities to address environmental sustainability, education, human rights, social justice, and poverty. When she realized that older adults could do more to help young people address their concerns, Mendelson shifted her focus to intergenerational strategies. In 2000, she became executive director of the Hawaii Intergenerational Network, a non-profit that pairs older adults with young people – as tutors and mentors for preschool and elementary school students and as collaborators with university students in alleviating the isolation of elders living alone. After 9/11, Mendelson launched a program called “See through My Eyes, Walk in My Shoes,” in which high school students and older adults selected films, songs, and poems from their generations that exemplified American values; then discussed their choices. She helped create a video capturing the voices of Hawaii’s civil rights advocates, which became a high school resource. For her leadership and initiative, state lawmakers in 2005 commended Mendelson for cultural and educational contributions in Hawaii. Mendelson recently founded Travel & Learn, LLC which offers study tours for older travelers who want to make a difference for children and youth across the globe.
2015 Update: Travel&Learn closed in 2014. Mendelson now serves on the Board of HelpAge/USA, an organization that empowers vulnerable older adults by building awareness of global aging issues, advocates public policy change and implements practical projects.