FALLBROOK – In the fall of 2012, every fourth grade student at William H. Frazier Elementary School was partnered with a University of California, San Diego (UCSD) student through a pen pal program. The goal was simple, “I wanted to create an opportunity to enhance our students’ learning, broaden their horizons as to what opportunities await them beyond high school, teach them to value academic success, and help advance their social and emotional development,” said Emily Just, lead teacher and organizer of the pen pal program.
The only thing asked of the UCSD students was that they include in their letters rich vocabulary, words of encouragement, and ample stories about their educational experiences; and they delivered. The UCSD students’ backgrounds vary as much as their courses of study, and through their letters they are able to teach Frazier’s students about all that college has to offer. “Before I learned about cognitive psychology and how students can experiment on rats to study the human brain, all I thought I would do in college is play football!” exclaimed Lukas Wargnier.
“Although it was difficult for my fourth graders to wait for all college pen pal response letters to come in, it was well worth the wait,” said Glynell Paulson, fourth grade teacher. “When the time finally came for all students to open their letters, the room buzzed with excited readers who were not only amazed by their pen pals’ diverse college studies, but surprised that they had something in common with their new friend.”
“Not only does my pen pal study developmental psychology, but she has traveled all over the world and helped people learn English and cared for animals at a sanctuary,” said Abigail Beckett. “Her travels have inspired me to want to travel to other countries so I can make a difference for people and animals too.”
To complete their college experience, students will be visiting the USCD campus at the end of May to meet their pen pals and to see what a classroom with 400 students really looks like. “I really love meeting new people, especially if they can teach me something new like creative writing,” said Kelsey Tanner. “I can’t wait to get my next letter from my pen pal, Cathiana, and I can’t wait to see how students in college learn at such a huge campus!”