On Tuesday, Sept. 12, Utah State University Student Association, (USUSA) hosted an event dubbed Pen Pals. Representatives of Serving Utah Network (SUN) center, a volunteer aspect of USUSA, reached out to the local elementary schools in an attempt to help the students at USU Eastern be involved in the community.
USUSA is a student-run group similar to a high school student council. They plan and run a majority of the events here on campus, and advocate for student’s needs and rights. They also act as a liaison for the student body and the university administration, faculty, and staff. The SUN Center is an affiliated program with USUSA that focuses on volunteer work. The SUN Center attempts to organize and facilitate about 25-30 service events during the academic year; these volunteer activities occur both on and off campus and give students a chance to connect and serve the communities.
The elementary schools responded positively to the idea of having students at the college respond to letters from their students. This was an opportunity for 100 children in the second and fourth grades to practice handwriting skills, as well as writing letters and communicating.
The children followed a basic letter outline. They began by addressing the reader with “Dear Student”, and then provided a little information about themselves such as their favorite food. They then proceeded to ask questions to the letter’s recipient, such as what they are studying and if they liked sports.
Once the elementary students finished writing their letters, the teachers gave their letters to the USUSA staff to distribute to the students at the college. USUSA chose to set up a table at the JLSC across from the lunchroom in an effort to reach as many college students as possible to participate.
At this table, members of USUSA distributed the letters, as well as brightly colored stationery decorated with pictures of balloons, so the students at the college could respond. Students were free to read the children’s letters and write responses at the USUSA table or they were allowed to find a separate spot for more privacy to read and write to the children.
Once the college students finished their response, they would place their letters and the child’s letter in a new envelope and write the child’s name on the front and the teacher’s name on the back. Then they would give the envelope to a USUSA representative.
B. Shaun Bryner, a representative of USUSA, participated in the service project by helping SUN Center distribute and collect the letters as well as writing a letter to a child himself.
“It was a blast writing to other kids and imagining their reactions to our letters.” Bryner stated, “I am not sure if the Sun Center is planning on doing this event again with other classes or schools, but I sure hope they do. It was a real blast to participate in it.”
USUSA had allotted an eight-hour time period in which the university students could respond to the letters, but because student support was so enthusiastic, they ran out of letters and took down their table after four hours.