As I ride the elevator up to the third floor of Life Sciences South I wonder how my Pen Pal is doing. After I find my notebook and initial on the notebook sheet, I start reading her responses about what her favorite subjects in school are and her favorite movies. As I turn the page, I find a picture of myself apparently holding a lollipop and on the back of the page she was sweet enough to actually give me one in her notebook!
This kind of interaction is what I hope every UBRP Pen Pal experiences. The Pen Pals program has originally started in order to have amazing UBRP students (UBRPers) be student peer mentors to sixth graders from Mansfeld Middle School. At each reading day during the academic year, UBRPers get to meet their Mansfeld Pen Pals and walk them through a morning full of interactive science activities. I have personally been involved in the program for two years as a UBRP Pen Pal and now in my third year I am the UBRP Pen Pals Coordinator.
This past year we have had a total of 60 students consisting of 30 UBRPers and 30 Mansfeld students. Many of our Mansfeld Pen Pals were particularly interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) fields. It was incredible to hear how sixth graders wanted to learn more about computer science, neuroscience, the life sciences and engineering during our Pen Pal visit day. This past visit we had groups that represented neuroscience, chemistry, and biomedical engineering. The feedback we had from both UBRPers and Mansfeld students was very positive. Many Mansfeld students wrote in their surveys about how they learned about various things that can carry a current. Others wrote about learning how important helmet safety is or about how milk and food coloring don’t mix due to different densities.
As UBRP Pen Pals Coordinator, it brings me so much joy to be able to offer this kind of unique mentorship experience. An activity that I assembled was a bit of a fun arts and crafts activity where the Pen Pal pair would have time to decorate frames that we created out of popsicle sticks and we took fun pictures! Our previous UBRP Pen Pal Coordinator, Ms. Cathy Tran, had this amazing idea and I wanted to continue it on in her honor. All in all, I am very excited for this upcoming semester. I am starting to generate my list of science outreach groups and clubs to start contacting to make this whole experience enriching for both UBRPers and Mansfeld kids.
As I reflect back on my own experience as a Pen Pal and now the Coordinator of the program I cannot help but realize the immense impact a college student can make. I think we all can remember a specific teacher or individual who really helped inspire us when we were young. UBRP Pen Pals is this kind of opportunity. These kids look forward to the day when notebooks are returned and many current UBRPers decked out their journal in stickers and sent doodles back and forth. Above all, what I hope that every single UBRP Pen Pal realizes is the impact they are creating. In fact, one Mansfeld student who came to our Pen Pal Visit Day expressed their desire to become a chemical engineer. UBRPers and the Pen Pal Program continue to astound me each and every day. I feel very fortunate to lead such a program that connects students across all disciplines and age groups to share the wonder of science. Also a special thank you to all of my UBRP Pen Pals; the program would not be where it is or what it is without such amazing individuals.