After spending the school year writing to pen pals at Binghamton University about everything from siblings to sports, 114 Windsor 3rd graders, along with 3rd-5th graders from the Oak Tree and 12:1:1 programs at Bell and Weeks Elementary, finally got to meet their more than 200 college writing buddies face-to-face.
When the two groups gathered on the college campus on April 12, the relationships transitioned from paper to real-life with enthusiasm.
“She gave me the biggest hug and it was so exciting because there was so much anticipation leading up to it,” said Deborah Siegel, who has spent the year writing C.R Weeks Elementary 3rd grader Taitum Tambeau-Guarino. “When we first started writing, it was about basic stuff. But, then I started writing her about how her week was going. I found out her horse had a baby.”
Siegel is Executive Vice President of Binghamton University’s Panhellenic Council, which includes a number of sororities at the school. 215 members of those sororities took part in the pen pal program with Windsor schools.
College student Alana Azougi and 3rd grader Connor Mangino shared their interest in Pokemon.
“We’d draw Pikachu back and forth,” said Azougi.
“I learned that she liked Pikachu, and that her mom is gluten free,” said Mangino.
The elementary students spent the day getting a tour of campus, playing games, and having lunch at the Events Center. The college students were able to point out areas of interest on campus to the Windsor students.
“I think they were amazed at how big the library is and how big the basketball gym is. It’s almost like a movie to them,” said Panhellenic Council member Victoria Paradise.
“They’re always so confused when you say you live at school,” said Panhellenic Council member Cassie Vacco.
“I want to come here,” said 3rd grader Jack Wharton.
The Panhellenic Council would like to expand the program further next year, either encompassing more grades from Windsor, or including third grade classes from other districts.
“You never know what’s going on in someone’s home, but we’re giving them support all year. We are so excited to meet them and I think they’re excited to meet us, too,” said Vacco.
“It was amazing. It was so nice for our kids to tour the campus, meet the college students and get into the actual rooms the students use,” said Bell Elementary principal Lorrie Hulbert.
While the Windsor students got a glimpse of what their future might be, the college students gained something as well.
“I got a friend,” said Azougi.