Forty-eight students and their pen pals gathered in the library at Chateauguay Valley Regional High School in early June for a meet-and-greet, after having corresponded back and forth over the past several months.
The program was initiated by the Montérégie West Community Network to bring younger people into contact with community members, including former teachers and educators, farmers, nurses, business owners, and politicians. The pen pals also included 11 members of the Social Integration Services program at the Huntingdon Adult Education and Community Centre.
Following an ice-breaker activity, the students and their pen pals chatted together amicably. “I enjoyed it,” said Joanne Cunningham, of the experience of writing to a pair of students. “There were a lot of questions being asked,” she laughed, noting it can be hard to introduce yourself in writing to someone new. She said she would participate again if the program returns in the fall. Several students also expressed an interest in continuing with the program, saying it had been fun to connect with different people in their community.
Grade 9 teacher Coralie Beghuin said she was impressed with her students’ level of engagement with the program. “They loved learning about different people’s experiences, their everyday life, and travel experiences,” she explained. “My main goal was community building, and I think that was achieved.”
For project coordinator Debra Wright, another important aspect to the program was the opportunity to create intergenerational connections. “It is important that this kind of thing keeps going and builds,” she said, noting she has every intention of continuing the pen pals project.