SAIL students connected with 69 alumni between the Classes of 1960 and 1972 through a pen pal program.
The program came about as way to help SAIL students find service opportunities in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions. Mrs. Renee Herndon, SAIL Department Chair, said, “The amount of service activities this year was limited because of COVID and we felt that is was impacting the students; they were missing out on the benefit of thinking of others needs over their own. Then as Lent was approaching, we thought we could connect the idea of thinking of others and Lent. My students had also been listening to podcasts and news clips, and reading and writing about the topic of finding common ground.” With the help of Bridget Kahermanes '66 and Patti Dold '71, students were paired with alumni who shared something in common with them and they began corresponding and building that common ground.
Sophomore Aiden Kelly was paired with Michael Kelly ’70 and enjoyed connecting with him over their shared interest in cars and travel. Senior Cody Johnson, who is considering joining the military, asked former field artillery officer Dan Breitenbach ’67 about his experiences in the Army. They also enjoyed sharing their mutual interest in boats and sailing.
One student wrote to her alumni pen pal, "I have so much to tell you...I don't know where to start!"
“Students are learning they have common interests with people who are generations older than them and can have ‘friendship’ with someone other than a peer,” Mrs. Herndon said. Students also worked on their written expression and communication skills and learned that reaching out to others in a way as simple as letter writing can positively impact their lives.
Bridget Kahermanes '66 said, "The alumni look forward to getting these letters. They make sure to ask questions, give years of advice, and develop a common thread of interests." A central message to the students is "You don't have to have all the answers right now."
Students also enjoyed a scavenger hunt through the school, seeking out the senior composite photos of their alumni pen pals. Mrs. Herndon said, "It’s been wonderful to watch the students light up; they are getting as much, if not more, back" from connecting with alumni through letters.
Lean more about our SAIL (Support and Accommodations for Identified Learners) Program.
This effort brought joy to the students, offered them career advice, and gave them confidence to know that there is value in what they say.
Mrs. Herndon, SAIL Department Chair