Students Reach Out To Seniors Via Pen Pal Program

Reed Cooper and Jim Fahey were born generations apart, and their upbringings could not be more different. Fahey grew up on a farm in Ireland. Cooper is a Joel Barlow High School student from Easton.

Despite their differences, Fahey, 80, and Cooper, 15, write each other letters and mail them through the U.S Postal Service. They call each other between their mailed replies.

Fahey and Cooper’s friendship developed through a Pen Pal program that began during the Coronavirus quarantine, but their relationship will likely endure.

“He’s like the son I don’t have,” Fahey said of Cooper.

“I don’t have intentions of stopping, it doesn’t take much time to write a letter,” Cooper said.

Susan Kaplan, Helen Keller Middle School principal, and Val Buckley, Easton Senior Center director, paired up in March to launch the Pen Pal program when the pandemic shut down the Easton Senior Center and cancelled the middle school’s Seniors Day.

Joel Barlow High School students were matched with seniors through the efforts of Chloe Rozendaal, a Barlow student herself who volunteers at the senior center.

“While volunteering at the senior center over the summer, I learned so much from the seniors there and I wanted other students at Joel Barlow to get to know them too and hear about the many amazing experiences that they had,” Rozendaal said.

Buckley and Kaplan are happy about the program.

“Our pen pal venture continues to be really successful,” Buckley said. “Many seniors have been delighted by the friendships that have been established with local students.”

Rita and Richard Seclow were paired with two Barlow students. Rita Seclow, 89, signed up for the program, thinking it would be a good opportunity to show high school students the lost art of letter writing. She’s come away with gratitude for the connection she’s made.

“It’s enlarged my world because I have no contact with people that age who I’m not related to,” said Rita.

Richard Seclow, 90, has had a similar experience. He’s written three letters to his pen pal, a Barlow student.

Arianna Pereira, 12, a Keller student, has been writing to Annette Norton, 99. In their letters they share stories about their dogs, their favorites movies, colors, and television shows.

“Mrs. Norton has a garden and she talks about her plants,” Pereira said. “She told me how much she likes Jeopardy, so I’ll have to watch it.”

Cheryl Norton, Annette Norton’s daughter, said her mother loves exchanging letters with Pereira. Their new friendship gives her mother something to look forward to while she continues to quarantine.

“After my mother sent her letter she wondered when Arianna would answer her back, and then the letter came one day,” Norton said.

Kaplan said the beautiful relationship that has blossomed between Norton and Pereira warms her heart.

“Collaborating with Val Buckley over the past years to bring Easton senior citizens together with our middle school students has been a joy,” said Kaplan.

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