Longwood Student Athletes Start Pen Pals Program

Published 3:45 pm Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Several Longwood University student-athletes recently visited George Mason Elementary School in Richmond to kick off a brand new pen pal program.

The student-athletes met 10 fourth-graders with reading and writing disabilities, who would become their new pen pals. The Lancers read books, participated in “get-to-know-you” activities and spent time with their individual pen pals during their visit to the school in February.

“The pen pal program is a great way for the student-athletes at Longwood to connect with the youth in the surrounding community,” said field hockey goalkeeper Meg Mitchell. “Our visit to George Mason Elementary was a great day and we had a lot of fun meeting the kids that we will be writing to for the next few months.”

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“Overall I think the program is a great idea and has gone well so far,” added men's soccer newcomer Daniel Gill. “I got a lot out of the trip, such as a renewed love of sports because I could see how happy they made my new pen pal, Derrick. I also learned how much help inner-city schools, like the one we went to, really need.”

Upon their return back to campus in Farmville, the student-athletes wrote their first letters to their pen pals. The Longwood student-athletes and the George Mason Elementary students will exchange two letters per month for the remainder of the spring semester.

“My pen pal is named Nathaniel,” explained Mitchell. “While we come from very different backgrounds and there is a big age difference, we were quickly able to find that we had a lot in common. We talked about our interests and found that we both love sports – and even better, Nathaniel's favorite football team is the Pittsburgh Steelers from my home state of Pennsylvania.”

“When I first asked Derrick about school and his family, he was slow to answer, but when we started talking about sports, he just got a big smile on his face and could rattle off all kinds of facts about certain players and teams,” commented Gill. “We read two books about sports together on my visit. In my first letter, I talked about the Miami Heat because that is his favorite team.”

The student-athletes will welcome their pen pals for a visit to Longwood at the end of the year to conclude the program.

“It is really rewarding to be able to have a positive influence on my pen pal, who has had a tough upbringing,” said Mitchell. “I have the unique opportunity to hopefully serve as his role model, not only by working on his reading and writing skills, but also in demonstrating to him that with hard work, he can succeed athletically too.”

“I also hope I can be a good role model to Derrick through our letters and visits,” echoed Gill. “Since I live in Richmond, I hope that we can stay in touch after this semester and could maybe even go to a basketball game together because he mentioned he would really like to do that.”