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Letter exchange connects Millersville University students and Lancaster third-graders

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Letter exchange connects Millersville University students and Lancaster third-graders
Intelligencer Journaltiffany Lancaster New Era
Updated Dec 04, 2013 22:02
Millersville; Lancaster
Millersville University president John Anderson, right, sp...
Tony Elliot, professor of theater and communications at Mi...
Related Topics
Millersville Univ... (2498)
Ross Elementary (3)
Originally Published
Dec 04, 2013 18:58
By KARA NEWHOUSE
Staff Writer knewhouse@lnpnews.com
With 8,000 students to accommodate, Millersville University is a bit bigger than Ross Elementary, a school of 300 in Lancaster.tiffany cheap tiffany & co jewelry "It looks more like a city," said Ross third-grader Lars Holland on a field trip to the campus Wednesday.cheap tiffany tiffany and co outlet Lars and 27 classmates visited MU after months of writing letters back and forth to students in a freshman seminar course, Justice for All.tiffany and co outlet While at the college, the young students got to hear from university President John Anderson, check out the library and a theater and, of course, play games with their older pen pals.For Ross students, the pen pal program created an exciting outlet to practice writing, as well as the chance to learn about college life. For the MU freshmen, corresponding with youngsters at an urban public school was an opportunity to apply their learning about urban education."We teach them how to write letters in class, but this is more of an authentic experience where they actually get the response back," said third-grade teacher Laurie Sallie."I have some children who were a little more reluctant in their writing, but this was a motivating piece for them. They want their letter to look nice for their pen pal. They want to make sure their grammar and spelling are correct, that they have good content. They're taking it seriously, and they want to do it. ... I have some boys who are very excited about writing now, and it's filtered over into other things we do with writing."Lars said he likes writing because "you don't have to take as much breaths," while classmate Marcus Colon had a different take. He liked writing to his pen pal "but not as much as talking."As a college, Marcus thought MU was "awesome." Asked what he liked best about it, he couldn't choose. "Everything," he said.The college pen pals all were part of Millersville Scholars, a program focused on helping low-income or first-generation college students succeed. The students said they liked helping the third-graders learn about possibilities for their future."I have a little sister and she's in third grade. Interacting with (my pen pal) ... it made me want to talk to my little sister more. She's pretty smart, but I never thought I should talk to her about college," said Khaliah Thomas.According to professor Tiffany Wright, that kind of mentor relationship directly aligns with the course's focus on inequities in the U.S. public school system."In Jonathan Kozol's book ('The Shame of the Nation'), he talks a lot about how one way in which urban students are shortchanged is that there's not even an expectation for a lot of them to go to college," she said."I wanted (the pen pal project) to be an experience where these third-graders could ask anything of the college students and get an understanding of — maybe nobody in their family has gone to college — what college is like, and here's a student who's just like you."Wright's goals weren't just for the third-graders, though. She wanted the freshmen to think critically about how the education system serves or underserves students."Equality means everybody gets the same thing. Equity means everybody gets what they need. Certainly neither is true in the funding structure of schools in the United States," she said.Inequities in school weren't a new concept to her students. Khaliah Thomas said relating discussion to her own high school experiences in Philadelphia was easy. Racial tensions between black and Asian students had troubled her at her alma mater, and she saw a lack of diversity in schools as a major problem for the country.Classmate Gregory Moya, who grew up in Stroudsburg, said school funding also is an issue. He suggested increased funding as a way "for everyone to have an equal chance to learn what everyone else is learning.""Education is a right," he said.Although the purpose of the project differed for the freshmen and the third-graders, both sets of students showed excitement to connect via letters."My students are like little kids when we get the letters in — 'You got letters! You got letters!'" Wright said."And the third-graders are all so appreciative. They just love these big friends that they have."
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