Punahou Bulletin

A Magazine for the Punahou School Family

Winter 2016

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Letter Exchange Bridges Gap Between Generations

“Interested in getting to know some of the sophomores better?” This was a question sophomore teachers posed to the Punahou community. “We’re looking for adults from across campus to volunteer for a project that involves personal correspondence via handwritten letters with a sophomore this fall.”

“Interested in getting to know some of the sophomores better?” This was a question sophomore teachers posed to the Punahou community. “We’re looking for adults from across campus to volunteer for a project that involves personal correspondence via handwritten letters with a sophomore this fall.”

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Sophomore Jordan Asentista ’19 meets his sixth-grade pen pal Vaughn Baldemor ’23 at the conclusion of the project.

Staff members, administrators, teachers, coaches and alumni – 57 in total – jumped at the chance to take part in the unique project. In addition to adults on campus, sixth-grade students also participated.

Approximately 170 sophomores were randomly paired up with either a middle-school student or an adult with the simple instructions to write and receive three letters. The subject matter was open-ended.

“The purpose of the letter exchange was to encourage all participants, both sophomores and their pen pals, to expand their perspectives and develop empathy for one another by engaging in cross-age, cross-campus connections within the Punahou ‘ohana,” said Zoe Dare-Attanasio ’06, Academy English teacher, who helped devise the project.

The inspiration for the assignment came from a book the sophomores read called “A Tale for the Time Being,” by Ruth Ozeki. The novel has two narrators: a teenage Japanese-American girl in Tokyo who writes a diary and a Japanese-American writer living on an island off British Columbia. Their stories intersect when the older writer finds the girl’s diary washed up onshore sometime after the 2011 tsunami that hit Japan.

“The letter exchange helped students experience different points of view and relate to the characters,” explained Academy English teacher Marisa Proctor, who also had a hand in creating the project.

Pen pals met each other in person in early November after each had sent and received three letters. For many, the bond created on the page translated into real life.

“She knows I’ll be here for her if she needs help in the future because she sees me in a different light,” said Cooke Librarian Debra Peterson about her sophomore pen pal. “Writing these letters has been something little that has had a large impact. Students have seen just how many caring adults we have at Punahou.”