ST. JEROME STUDENTS WRITE LETTERS TO SENIOR CITIZENS
Everyone likes to get real mail — handwritten, addressed to one person and sealed in an envelope. While letter writing seems like a dying art, it is very much alive at St. Jerome Catholic School in Maplewood.
Letters are at the heart of an outreach program that serves senior citizens who struggle to get out into the community. Starting in kindergarten, every student has an “outreach buddy.” Buddies receive letters from their assigned student over the course of the child’s education. Principal Laurie Sherman explained that providing a contact piece for people with limited interaction fills a need and fits with the school’s focus on service. Stories from both students and letter recipients confirm the value of this outreach.
Fifth-grader Grace Cook wrote to an elderly woman, Rita, for five years. Cook never received replies, but sent monthly letters having faith that they “brought a little light into her day.” Rita recently passed away. Her family invited Cook to the funeral, where she learned that Rita had been ill and unable to write. But whenever Rita got letters, she’d “light up and tape them to her walls, so she could look at them when she was in bed,” Cook recalled, beaming as she told the story.
Fifth-grader Kaden Lamp writes to Marco, who has reduced mobility due to an accident. They write about sports, but Lamp also appreciates Marco’s advice: “Sports are fun, but you’ll want to focus on school, so you can get good grades.”
Elizabeth at the senior center believes writing is important. She enjoys reading sixth-grader Hung Nguyen’s letters and is pleased that he improves his skills while writing them.
St. Jerome’s outreach program is taking children’s learning into the community, where real mail creates real connections.