Connections made, experiences shared

By on June 3, 2019
RIT Honors students helped CES students create dog toys to be donated to Lollypop Farm.

RIT Honors students helped CES students create dog toys to be donated to Lollypop Farm.

Pen pals at Churchville Elementary School

Second-graders at Churchville Elementary School (CES) have been exchanging letters with special friends at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) throughout this school year. Their beautiful handmade letters are carefully decorated and painstakingly written. Each has been answered in kind by their own college pen pal. After months of correspondence, a meet-and-greet was arranged for the pen pals on April 26. It included fun, get-to-know-you activities and a crafty introduction to community service.

The Pen Pal Project is the brainchild of RIT student and Honors Service Committee Chair Allie Zeznick. She and fellow RIT Honors students began the project last year at Chestnut Ridge Elementary School as part of their community service requirement. This year, the project has 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 colorful chew toys out of old t-shirts. The toys will be donated to dogs and puppies at Lollypop Farm.

CES Principal David Johnson said, “I love to bring programs like this to our kids. 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,” said Zeznick. “It is really a great way to help younger kids, and tie into 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.

Provided information and photos

The RIT students have built close connections to their pen pals, acting as mentors and sharing expertise and advice.

The RIT students have built close connections to their pen pals, acting as mentors and sharing expertise and advice.

RIT student Allie Zeznick works on a getting-to-know-you activity with second-graders at Churchville Elementary.

RIT student Allie Zeznick works on a getting-to-know-you activity with second-graders at Churchville Elementary.

Churchville-Elementary School students had a wonderful time learning about ways they can give back to their community.

Churchville-Elementary School students had a wonderful time learning about ways they can give back to their community.