Teen mental well-being is at a 12-year low, with more depression, anxiety and hospital visits. The pandemic has only exacerbated this issue causing learning loss and more anxiety. Our programs give students the opportunity to share questions and concerns about their lives, as well as their feelings, with a non- judgmental older adult while engaging in authentic conversation, a lost art today.
Since the advent of the smartphone, obsessions with texting and social media are sounding a death knell for real conversation. Conversation is a skill that must be learned, so those most at risk for failing to learn how to have an authentic conversation are those who grew up with a smartphone. Conversation is the most human activity we do. It is the cornerstone for empathy. If our young adults do not know how long to hold eye contact, or how to sustain a face-to-face conversation, how will they fare in the world?
Our program has been studied twice by University of Southern California professor Dr. Mary Helen Immordino Yang. The first study was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2017. The second study in 2019, was funded by the Templeton Foundation.
These evaluations provided an evidence-based framework for our model with the number one outcome being “a greater sense of purpose” for our student participants.
Quantitative findings from these two USC studies showed increases in:
- interest in civic engagement
- social-emotional skills
- reflection on core values
- higher well-being
Participants also reported feeling more grateful and hopeful after the intervention.
“Neuroscience is revealing how brain development is shaped by social relationships. Adolescence is a critical period of socially-facilitated brain development and learning, as well as an emotionally vulnerable period for many youths. Though supporting social- emotional learning (SEL) in elementary schools is relatively straightforward, it has proven much more difficult to create effective interventions for adolescents, who are struggling to invent their desired adult selves. Programs that help young people to figure out who they are, what matters to them, and why, such as Sages and Seekers, can provide incredibly powerful learning experiences to adolescents. The activities inspire genuine reflection and growth because they happen via structured, supportive, and very special friendships with an elder.”
~ Dr. Mary Helen Immordino Yang, Principal Investigator
Research Studies of Sages & Seekers
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. Moreover, adolescents’ changing abilities to conceptualize their future goals in terms of ethical and relational values, instead of hedonistic or pragmatic motives, mediated the increases in reported purpose-in-life. Older adult participants showed increased generativity and working memory performance.
For the Templeton Foundation study, the overarching empirical aims of this project were to investigate the developmental trajectories of youths’ meaning-making across the intervention, and to probe the effects of meaning-making on changes in virtues, purpose, spirituality, civic participation and stress regulation. Participants reported self-transcendent purpose scores, wisdom scores, hope and gratitude scores increased from pre- to post- intervention.
Sages & Seekers is an evidence-based, experiential learning program that cultivates valuable social-emotional skills, such as respect, empathy, social intelligence, gratitude,
optimism, and curiosity. Students develop an awareness of age-related discrimination and a greater appreciation of the elderly and their legacies. Our program provides students with a forum where they learn to overcome biases about a group of seemingly different people, teaching them how to connect and find commonalities. Sages & Seekers reinforces schools’ DEIB initiatives as it lays the groundwork for positive futures in a diverse world.
Sages & Seekers has been implemented across the country in private & public schools,
universities, local senior centers, and youth-serving agencies. Our virtual program has
international reach, engaging participants in countries such as Mexico, Colombia,
Argentina, and Australia. Our 8-week program can be integrated into a class curriculum,
such as English, history, humanities, or creative writing, or offered as an extracurricular
club or as a way for students to fulfill their community service requirement.
The benefits of our program include both academic and social-emotional skill building:
High schools who utilized Sages & Seekers’ programs on their campuses have included:
Keefe Technical School, Framingham
Needham High School, Needham
Rivers School, Weston
International School of Boston, Cambridge
Nobles & Greenough, Dedham
Dana Hall, Wellesley
Walnut Hill School, Natick
Concord Academy, Concord
Wayland High School, Wayland
Natick High School, Natick
Blair High School, Pasadena
Fairfax High School, Los Angeles
John Marshall High School, Los Angeles
Larchmont Charter High School, Los Angeles
Notre Dame High School, Sherman Oaks
Palisades Charter High School, Pacific Palisades
PUC CALS, Los Angeles
PUC eCALS, Los Angeles
The Sages & Seekers program has been offered on college campuses throughout the country, including UCLA, Brandeis, University of Southern California, and Vanderbilt. Most recently, we partnered with UCLA to offer our curriculum to their aging cluster for freshmen, which included 50 students. Not only did these students participate in our 8-week online Zoom programs, but they became Sages & Seekers advocates, by creating animated videos and vlogs that discussed the benefits of our program and helped recruit Seekers from their high schools for future Sages & Seekers sessions. This partnership with UCLA has led to the creation of our Cross-Generational Problem Solving Program.
We can partner with your university for an online program or find out about licensing our manual.
University of Southern California professor Dr. Mary Helen Immordino Yang conducted both studies of our program. Here she talks about the efficacy of Sages & Seekers.
Listen to what High School Teachers and University Professors have to say about utilizing our programs in their academic curriculum, and the profound benefits to their students.
Our participants share their experience and feelings about the impact of our programs and the resulting benefits of authentic conversation with another generation.