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Students to meet pen pals Friday

Alicia Smith | Tuesday, April 28, 2009

After a semester of writing letters to fourth graders at Warren Primary Center, Saint Mary’s students will have the opportunity to meet their pen pals.

“The Pen Pal Program is an innovative mentoring program that partners Saint Mary’s College students with fourth grade girls at local Title one schools in a semester long letter exchange,” Olivia Barzydlo, assistant director of the Office of Civil and Social Engagement (OCSE) and director of the College Academy of Tutoring (CAT) program said.

“This year we partnered with Warren Primary Center and had Saint Mary’s mentors meet with the girls in small groups once a week to work on self-esteem and social skills activities with them as well as help them write letters to their Saint Mary’s pen pals.”

The students will have the opportunity to meet their pen pals Friday.

“They will break into small groups to tour campus and meet back in Reinbeaux for lunch,” she said. “After lunch, the pen pals will participate in an assortment of teambuilding activities ending with a reflection circle on the Alumnae Green where the fourth graders will reflect on their day,” she said.

Barzydlo added that before the fourth graders leave the College, they will receive stationary from their pen pals so they continue correspondence throughout the summer.

According to Barzydlo, the Pen Pal Program began in 2006 as part of an internship.

“The program began in 2006 with two students as part of a clinical psychology internship,” she said. “There was such tremendous positive feedback from the school and the Saint Mary’s students involved that the OCSE took on the program, permanently giving it to the CAT program.”

Like the Pen Pal Program, the CAT program was also created in 2006. According to Barzydlo, the CAT program was created to help at-risk students from local schools.

“The program provides Saint Mary’s students to partner with Title one elementary schools in the roles of tutors, teacher’s assistants, reading partners and special program coordinators,” she said. “It also provides the partner school with physical resources, as well as training and cultural events for parents, staff and community members.”

Barzydlo said she is excited that the students finally have the opportunity to meet each other.

“We’re all extremely excited for the big day. You’ll see us around campus in bright blue shirts on May 1,” Barzydlo said.