Students First – Local students meet their penpals

Immokalee area students meet their Penpals from Georgia. (Submitted photo)

It is no secret that Hurricane Irma left the community of Immokalee in disrepair. In these tough times, however, a community comes together. We have heard numerous heartwarming stories of neighbors helping neighbors. We also had an outpouring of support from those outside the community.

One example from Eden Park Elementary School started right after Hurricane Irma. An associate professor at Thomas University in Thomasville, Georgia, was very concerned about the Immokalee community in the aftermath of the storm. She and her students decided to have a Scholastic Book Fair to benefit a fourth grade class at Eden Park. The university also sent each child in the class a backpack with the book, The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet, by Carmen Agra Deedy, along with an additional book, pencil, and frisbee.

Thomas University also works with local Boys & Girls Clubs in Cairo and Thomasville, Georgia. After much back and forth about what they could do to help, they came up with the idea of becoming pen pals with Eden Park’s fourth grade students in an effort to give them emotional support following the storm.

The first letters from Georgia were heartfelt and incredible to read. The students have since written back and forth a couple of times.

But it didn’t stop there. Nineteen students from Georgia decided to come for a visit a few weeks ago to meet their pen pals in person! It was such an uplifting and amazing experience for the students at Eden Park. The young Georgia visitors told our students about Albert Nobel and the Nobel Peace Prize. The visitors were excited to see that our students already knew about the Nobel Prize as it was just discussed in class during a lesson on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize. In fact, they found many commonalities during their visit. It was an incredible day for everyone involved.

For the fourth grade students at Eden Park, the simple act of kindness and empathy, of writing a letter and sharing experiences, has proven to ease the impact of Hurricane Irma. And life-long friendships have been formed.

Jennifer L. Kupiec is the Specialist, Communications & Community Engagement Collier County Public Schools

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