Whittier Tech Sophomores and Residents of Wingate Residences Become Pen Pals to Stay Connected

Amelia Bettano is one of 16 sophomores participating in the pen pal program with Wingate Residences at Haverhill. (Photograph courtesy of Whittier Tech.)

Amelia Bettano, a sophomore in health assisting program, of Haverhill, is one of 16 sophomores participating in the pen pal program with Wingate Residences at Haverhill. (Photograph courtesy of Whittier Tech.)

Sophomores attending the Health Assisting program at Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School are using a new pen pal program to stay connected and learn more about their community throughout the pandemic.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, 16 Whittier Tech sophomores began exchanging letters with the same number of residents at Wingate Residences at Haverhill. Health Assisting Instructor Kim Malynn conceived the idea.

“During these challenging times, this helps to provide some comfort and joy for both parties. Some have even been paired with residents who used to work at Whittier Tech, so it has been fascinating for the students to learn about this shared experience,” said Malynn who graduated from Whittier Tech in 2001 and now co-teaches the course with her former instructor Jane Moskevitz,.

A major goal for health assisting students during their sophomore year is to learn how to connect with residents, develop interpersonal skills and learn to effectively communicate. Though this is usually done by having students meet with Wingate residents in person, Malynn sought a creative alternative in order to protect the health and safety of students and Wingate residents.

At first, students wrote general letters that were shared with a resident at random, but now, each student is matched with a resident who they will continue to write to and learn more about.

Students and residents write about careers and passions and share memories and life experiences. Wingate’s Life Enrichment Director Michelle Meehan said she has been impressed with the letters.

“The residents understand how challenging it is to be a high school student during COVID-19 – with limited in-classroom learning, online education and missing out on the social aspect of being in school,” said Meehan.

She added, “Since we cannot have in-person, ‘intergenerational program’ visits—nor go to Whittier for our monthly luncheons in the restaurant, which we miss dearly, this would give us a way to contribute and connect with students during a time when they may feel isolated during their high school year.

The hope is that students and residents will continue corresponding throughout the school year and have students potentially visit Wingate in the spring to meet their pen pals for an outdoor, socially distanced event.

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