Second graders at Churchville Elementary School have exchanged letters with friends at the Rochester Institute of Technology throughout the 2018-19 school year. Their letters are carefully decorated and painstakingly written, and each was answered in kind by their college pen pal.
After months of correspondence, a meet-and-greet was arranged for the pen pals in April that included get-to-know-you activities and an introduction to community service.
The Pen Pal Project is the brainchild of RIT student Allie Zeznick, chair of the Honors Service Committee. She and fellow RIT Honors students started the project last year at Chestnut Ridge Elementary School as part of their community service requirement. This year, the project expanded to two Churchville-Chili schools and includes more than 100 second graders and 85 RIT students.
The face-to-face meeting at CES began with beach balls covered with printed questions, like “What makes you angry?” and “What do you like to do?” As balls were tossed around from person to person, participants answered the questions and learned about each other. Then, students broke into small groups and learned how to make chew toys out of old T-shirts, which will be donated to dogs and puppies at Lollypop Farm.
“I love to bring programs like this to our kids,” CES Principal David Johnson said. “This is a great age for young children to become aware of what they can do to help others and contribute to their community. The RIT mentors have made a very positive impact on the younger kids’ confidence and communication abilities. Allie has done a terrific job of coordinating this and making it work.”
“I never dreamed that the program would be as successful as it is,” Zeznick said. “It is really a great way to help younger kids, and tie in to the reading and writing skills they are learning at this age.”
Zeznick made the initial connection to Churchville-Chili schools through her mother, Lisa Zeznick, who is the district’s math and science instructional coach.