By DAVID GREEN
When eight Morenci Area High School seniors walked onto a school bus Thursday morning to greet a group of younger students, it was a meeting of old friends.
Except there was that one odd twist—they had never before laid eyes on one another.
The two parties had been corresponding by e-mail since late October; now it was finally time to get together for a picnic at Wakefield Park.
Five students from Adrian’s Michener Elementary School signed up for the e-Mail Buddy program through the Lenawee County Big Brother-Big Sister organization, along with six from Sand Creek.
Program coordinator Bob Dister could sense the anticipation among the youngsters as the high school students entered the bus.
One by one, a name was called and a hand shot up in recognition. Seating was soon rearranged so the Bigs and the Littles could sit together for the trip to the park.
Before the short journey ended, Dister could hear conversations developing as the two groups updated one another on their lives.
At the park, it was nothing but fun, lunch and more fun as the two groups mixed on the playground equipment.
The current school year marks the sixth season for the successful e-Mail Buddy program.
Throughout the school year, the younger students typically wrote a letter on a Tuesday and sent it on to their older correspondent. The high school student wrote a response which was printed and given to the younger person on Friday.
“The correspondence is all supervised,” Dister said. “Every e-mail is read in our office.”
It’s more than just a social program for the third grade students, he said. At the start of the program, students wrote their letters on paper and handed them in for their teacher to type. Before too long, the students were learning to type their own letters on a computer.
The program addresses general language arts skills, too, as sentence structure and grammar improves through the year.
There’s a little geography thrown into the mix when a Big tells a Little about a trip to Florida or a sports competition in Detroit.
This was the first year in the program for Sand Creek teacher Kathie Norton-McCallister and Dister knows it translated into extra work for her. It also produced some positive results.
“My students enjoyed having a connection with these older students,” she said. “They were able to hear about their activities as high schoolers and the plans they have for after graduation.”
There’s also an early link made between Sand Creek and Morenci—the traditional rivals on the athletic field.
“I feel that making connections between area school districts is important to our community,” she said.
Dister hopes she elects to participate again next year and he would like to see her entire class join in rather than just half a dozen students.
If that happens, next year’s picnic could become a gala event.
• Participating in the program from Morenci were National Honor Society students Tiffany Wilson, Nick Vehemier, Riley Miller, Ryan Lucas, Zac Johnson, Maddie Green, Sarah Garwood and Dominique Cox. Kaliegh Robichaud and Adriane Bernotas of Sand Creek also participated.– May 9, 2007