Pen pal program with area students hampered by lack of funds

The students of Wheaton College may soon have an opportunity to make a positive impact in the greater community. This impact will be implemented in the form of a program which will allow Wheaton students to become pen pals with low-performing high school students in the area, particularly in Norton. The program will culminate in the pen pals eventually meeting one another.

Student Government Representative to the Board of Trustees and Alumnae/i, Liza Acevedo ’15, thought of this idea and is putting the program together. Acevedo said, “We are hoping to have the initiative take off by the end of this month and begin interviewing students at Wheaton to form matches with the students at Norton.”

Joseph Baeta, the superintendent of the Norton Public Schools, said, “Anytime a public school like Norton High can collaborate with a prestigious institution of higher learning such as Wheaton College, the opportunities are significant.”

The program will be selecting the pen pals from Wheaton primarily through face-to-face interviews. “The program will be open to all years. By conducting face-to-face interviews, we are hoping to get to know the Wheaton students personalities and background so we can make a great match with a student at the high school,” Acevedo said. “The plan is to host a pilot program in Norton and expand to the surrounding towns.”

The one issue that may prevent this program from happening is the expenses. The background checks required, which would allow the adult students of Wheaton to communicate with the high school students, costs $30.00.

“[Concerning] the background checks, this issue is important and our belief is that the University needs to step up on this issue. We see great benefits from the program but can’t be responsible for this cost,” Baeta said.

Acevedo hopes that the background checks will not be necessary. “If [someone] is interacting with students, they normally need to have [a background check] completed. I believe that since we are conducting face-to-face interviews, have information on campus about the students whom will be chosen and since we are using letters and the event will be here on campus, I am hoping we can drop the possibility of the $30.00 fee,” Acevedo said.

Neither Wheaton nor the high schools believe that it would be justifiable for money to stand in the way of a program with such great benefits. “The answer can’t be that funding stops us from moving forward,” Baeta said. “The relationship between the institutions must grow.” Acevedo said, “It’s our job as Wheaton students to expose these students to their strengths and help them to believe in themselves and their abilities. If we can connect with these students personally, educationally or in other ways and walk away knowing we have made a difference in their performance or given them encouragement, then I believe that is progress and we need progress to have success.”