Eagle Ambassadors, Inc. - penpal article

Skills Developed and Friendships Formed through Pen Pals Program

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In May, the program hosts a Meet and Greet, where pen pals meet their matched correspondent one-on-one for the first time.

"The students and adults look forward to this day with great anticipation," said Brenda Reeve, RSVP Project Director for the Pen Pals Program. "The last letters written before the Meet and Greet are filled with sentiments such as 'I can't wait to meet you.', "I wonder if you'll recognize me right away?', and "You are the best pen pal in the world."

The once-a-month letter exchange, which is administered by the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of Centre County, was created to be a mentor experience to hone reading, writing, and social skills, and to be a creative outlet for elementary school children.

But it does so more than that.

“In all the newness and uncertainty at the start of a new school year, one thing is for certain: You'll be sure to have a new friend right off the bat," said Reeve. "That friend will be someone who you will be able to confide in, who will listen to you objectively, who will be eager to hear from you and learn more about you, who will be a support for you all year long."

"It has proven to boost children's confidence levels in and out of the classroom," she added. "It has also given the adult pals a great insight into what children experience at school today and to feel closer to and be a part of the educational process."

The program began in 2002 at Port Matilda Elementary School with a single classroom, and has expanded to include Port Matilda, Howard, and Mountaintop Elementary Schools in their entirety, as well as grades K-2 at Wingate Elementary. Approximately 800 children and 400 adults participated in the program in the 2016-17 school year.

Originally, adult pen pals consisted of RSVP members 55 and over, and now includes adults 18 and over who want to make a difference in a child's life.

The following quote by Rachel Carson was shared at a past Meet and Greet: "If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in."

"We believe that this quote truly embodies the heart of the Pen Pal Program," said Reeve.