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January 16, 2008 > Senior Penpal Project - From the eyes of a participant

Senior Penpal Project - From the eyes of a participant

By Rose Marie Everett

I'm a retired elementary school teacher. I taught for a number of California schools for nearly 36 years and retired in June 2004 from Hayward Unified School District. My expertise expanded from teaching preschool to adult education classes. It wasn't until I started subbing in 2006 that I realized that teaching intermediate grades fourth through sixth was such a delight. I enjoyed the more in-depth conversations and advanced curriculum, especially with their social studies and language arts compositions.

When I heard about the Penpal program through the City of Fremont Human Services Department, I had to look into it. I submitted my personal profile of things I liked, my hobbies, my family, and how I saw life through the eyes of a retired person living in our Tri-City community. Having grown children and not having any grandchildren, I was excited to share my busy and fun new life. Sometimes I get the idea from young people that older adults have nothing to contribute to society. In addition, I wanted to hear from my sixth grade Penpals what was important to them.

I was assigned two sixth grade students from Mission San Jose Elementary School. The girls were friends so though they each wrote their own letters, I only needed to write one letter to both of them. But I wrote individual letters to them also, so they had something of their own to share with their classmates.

We wrote three times back and forth and learned about their mentors, their hobbies, and what they thought about their family, friends and teachers. The girls made little things for me such as a Valentine's Day card and a St. Patrick's Day trinket. The project started in February and ended in May. My husband, although still working, also joined the project and wrote two sixth grade boys from Durham Elementary School. He, too, was most impressed with his students. My husband and I looked forward to receiving our letters each time.

As an educator, I was so impressed that the teachers of these two classes incorporated the California State Standards. There was never a mistake or error in our letters. I was impressed as a senior and a former educator in their skill in language arts and social studies exemplified in their writings.

The seniors, students, teachers, coordinators and high school students (who were gaining community service hours) came together on May 29, 2007 at the Fremont Senior Center to meet for the first time. We were all excited to finally meet our pen pals over lunch. Even Fremont Mayor, Bob Wasserman, and some Fremont Council Members came to help us celebrate the bridge of understanding between our generations.

I encourage all seniors to participate in this worthwhile exchange of upbringings, our present thoughts, ideas for the future, and how we can all learn and benefit from each other.

Sign up to become a Senior Penpal!

This year, with the support of Cargill Salt, the Penpal program has expanded to five sixth grade classrooms in the Tri-City area. If you are over 55 years of age, live in Fremont, Newark, or Union City, and have an interest in connecting and communicating with a new friend - a sixth grader whom you otherwise may have never met, sign up to become a Senior Penpal. This is a wonderful experience to connect with the younger generation, learn about the similarities and differences of growing up as a child today, and you can help change that perception of aging for our future generations!

To receive a Penpal application, call the Senior Penpal Coordinator, Sugi Shiva at (510) 574-2076 or email her at sshiva@ci.fremont.ca.us. Deadline is Monday, Jan. 21.

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