High school seniors, retired seniors become pen pals

Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 7:36 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - In a time when many feel isolated, written letters are helping people who are generations apart feel more connected.

“I remember when I was deployed for the military or other schools, handwritten letters are what got me through,” said Neal Fulks, Ironwood Ridge High School teacher and creator of Senior to Senior. “I thought we could do that and it could bring people together.”

Fulks had his seniors write letters to people living in a local retirement community.

“He told me he was a photographer and liked to travel,” said Pat Lee, a senior who lives in a local retirement community.

The pen pals have shared their interests and are curious to learn about each other’s experiences over the past year. Kathlyn Simkins said she’s enjoyed writing letters with the student.

“Do they still have dreams especially after this hard year for them from COVID? And do they get that this has been a wonderful opportunity for them to develop resilience in life,” Simkins said.

Each letter has taught them a bit more about one another. Separated by decades, she and her pen pal share similar life experiences.

“To be able to write back and share that with her,” Simkins said. “There’s something about it, completing the circle of life while you’re still here.”

Aaron Hall, a student at Ironwood Ridge High School, wrote about how his family, friends and mentors have made him who he is today.

“I talked about how glad I am. I’ve had so much support throughout my life for my Autism. If I didn’t have that, I don’t know where I would be,” Hall said.

The letters have brought back memories of his grandfather.

“Ever since my grandfather passed away, I always thought about the experiences he went through,” he said.

Hall said he’s hopeful more students can have the same opportunity.

“I wish other schools would do this sort of thing so they can interact with the older generation, so they can know more about their history,” he said.

The project has developed into a program called Senior to Senior. Fulks said there are conversations about the program potentially expanding.

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