‘Friends of note’ meet at senior penpal tea
Dylan Yates visited with his senior pen pal Cathy Neff as if the two were old friends.
But until Friday's pen pal tea, held at Tonganoxie Elementary School, the two had never met. Dylan is a Tonganoxie third-grader. Neff is one of some 70 senior citizens who volunteered to be a pen pal. And since December, the two have been exchanging letters.
Gail Kiefer, one of the third-grade teachers who organized the pen pal project, said this means a lot to the children.
"They talk about it for days," Kiefer said. "They've written in their diaries about their senior pal. They're constantly talking about the tea and what their senior pals told them, so it becomes more concrete for them when they actually meet their pen pal -- it becomes reality."
Kiefer said about 70 senior pen pals attended Friday's tea.
She was pleased with the attendance.
"In my class there were only two kids that their senior pen pals didn't show up," Kiefer said. "We have a high percentage that show up."
Senior pen pal attendance was high with the other two third-grade classes that participated as well, Kiefer said. Those classes are taught by Chris Baska and Nancy Patton, who also helped organize the senior pen pal project and tea.
In the past, the pen pal was a second-grade project. But since Kiefer went from being a second grade teacher to a third-grade teacher, the project was moved up a grade.
As a result, she said, the letters the students wrote were more in-depth.
"We've actually done more letters than in the past," Kiefer said, explaining the second-graders tended to draw pictures or just write a couple of sentences. "The kids (third-graders) are able to write letters and ask questions and respond back to the questions that the senior pal asks them."
Kiefer said the program will continue next year, and more pen pals are always needed. To sign up, they can call the school at (913) 845-2290.
And, just because the school year is ending doesn't mean the communication will stop.
"We'll give the kids the senior pen pals' addresses and they can continue writing over the summer if they wish," Kiefer said.