D51 Students Connect With Our Seniors Through Pen Pal Program
The coronavirus has taken a toll on us all, including senior citizens who may be in isolation, and the District 51 students who’ve been forced to virtually participate in school and other extracurricular activities. Grand Junction High School teacher Lori Holloway is connecting students and staff with our Fountains and Commons residents through letters. Inspired by her 95-year-old aunt who lives in a New Jersey assisted living facility, Holloway wanted to start a pen pal program between students and local seniors. Not only is this giving new life to the folks who’ve been isolated from the outside world for months, but it’s also giving the students and staff a whole new perspective.
“It’s bigger than I thought it was going to be,” said Holloway, “I expected to maybe get a list of 25 senior citizens who would be interested.” Instead, she got a list of about 130 seniors from The Fountains and The Commons of Hilltop. As a result, she opened the program up to more GJHS staff and students. “I think it’s had a huge impact on the students,” said Holloway.
“They’re not able to see family, they’re not able to get the social time with all of their friends and I know it’s probably very difficult,” said Katie Ellis, an upcoming senior whose taken on three pen pals. Ellis is just one of the over 50 students and staff participating in the program. “I just try to write about all the upbeat things,” said Ellis, “I like to throw puns and stuff in there, try to make them have a little chuckle when they read it.”
According to Holloway, the students and staff involved in the program are having fun. “Some of the students send them jokes and riddles, cartoons a lot of the students have done artwork,” said Holloway. (The residents) are opening up to the students, they’re saying, ‘I went to Grand Junction High School,’ or ‘when I was in high school,’” said Holloway. “Their stories are so rich, their lives are so rich, and they’re just a wonderful segment of our community that I think sometimes is overlooked.”
“We are forging new friendships, they’re learning about each other and the differences that exist generationally,” said Holloway, “So I think it’s a very heartwarming experience for everybody that’s involved.” Many of the students are interested in meeting their pen pals in person. Holloway said she’s looking into organizing an ice cream social in the future when we can all gather safely once more.