GENConnect looks to educate students with life skills to take care of themselves

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Wilfrid Laurier University is welcoming a new student start-up to the Waterloo campus this semester.

GENconnect Waterloo is an event-based start-up social venture. Its goal is to create intergenerational connections and relationships, between students and seniors from the Kitchener-Waterloo community by facilitating cooking classes.

GENconnect was founded by Laura Shield, Giny Pearson and Roxy Suida, three Laurier students participating in the social entrepreneurship option of C3 Innovation Labs — a program designed for arts students wishing to take on community-engaged experiential learning in the tri-cities with their own ventures.

GENconnect’s launch and first cooking class took place on Feb. 28. It was lead by chef Sally, a local senior citizen, who shared with the participating students her recipe for hearty couscous with vegetables.

The cooking classes are $5.00 per person per class and are lead by seniors who are eager to share their recipes and wisdom of nutritional, home-cooked meals with Laurier’s students.

Sessions are held at the Harris Hope House on Albert Street. Afterwards, student participants are given the opportunity to share and enjoy the meal together with their chef. Any leftovers from the meals made are left in the global kitchen for international students who live there as part of a separate program.

“Our intent behind this project is to spread that awareness of how to cook and to pass these skills along, but it’s also [to let students] know that you’re not alone when you’re out here in university … the transition can be tough for students.”

“We plan on having at least two more [classes] by the end of April,” said Laura Shield, one of GENconnect’s founders.

“For the past couple of months, gearing up before the launch, we’ve been spending a lot of time getting our food handling [certifications].”

The chefs who lead these cooking classes do so on a purely volunteer basis.

“We typically ask the seniors that would be interested to bring their own recipes forward when coming in and teaching, because we want them to be comfortable when teaching other people how to cook the recipe — and we also want that conversation started,” Shield said.

GENconnect emphasizes the value of having mentorship and guidance during an important time in a students’ life, in which many of them will be learning how to cook and care for themselves for the first time.

“We look forward to having this grow into something a lot bigger,” Shield said.

“Our intent behind this project is to spread that awareness of how to cook and to pass these skills along, but it’s also [to let students] know that you’re not alone when you’re out here in university … the transition can be tough for students.”

GENconnect’s organizers are working on finalizing the details for their next class, at which they hope students will get the opportunity to learn how to prepare a sweet treat.

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