Pen pals: NRHH gives back to community

Chris Anderson

A pen pal program between National Residence Hall Honorary and a kindergarten class at Meeker Elementary is helping to fulfill a goal of giving back and creating connections between students of different generations.

NRHH is an organization at Iowa State composed of up to 1 percent of leaders from within residence halls and on-campus apartment communities. Olivia Carrasco, president of NRHH, sees NRHH as a way for Iowa State’s top leaders to give back.

“We didn’t get here alone obviously, so we’re always looking for ways to give back,” Carrasco said.

At the beginning of the semester, Carrasco didn’t like the fact that the majority of NRHH meetings consisted mostly of her talking to the organization. She decided she wanted to find some kind of service that NRHH members could do during their meetings.

While brainstorming ideas, Tyler Hoenig, director of service for NRHH, shared that he could set up a pen pal program with a kindergarten classroom he previously worked in.

“I said, ‘I have the connections, let’s do it,’” Hoenig said.

Hoenig reached out to the classroom he worked with at Meeker Elementary, and organized the group to start writing letters to kindergarten students twice a month.

Hoenig feels that this is a positive program because it allows them and the kindergarten students to have somebody to share things with.

Although the group has so far only sent one letter, he hopes to make the program into something where NRHH members can give advice to and relate with younger kids.

“For us, it gives us an opportunity to just get to know a younger generation,” Hoenig said.

Carrasco liked the idea from the beginning, especially because it went beyond the kind of thing that NRHH usually does when it comes to giving back.

“We were trying to look for a broader way to give back in the Ames community,” Carrasco said.

In the future, Carrasco would like to see them develop a relationship with these younger students and eventually come in to meet them. She is also coming up with ideas of service projects they could do together with the students.

“We’re writing to try to show them they have friends up in higher school,” Carrasco said.

Teri Prochaska, kindergarten teacher at Meeker Elementary, is the teacher of the students NRHH has been writing to. From her perspective, the program has so far been a success.

“They were super excited, it was fun because they were hand written letters with a ton of sentences and words that they couldn’t read,” Prochaska said.

The first letters between NRHH and the kindergarten class were relatively simple. NRHH members introduced themselves to the students and asked them questions like what their favorite color is. Prochaska then read the letters to the students and had them draw out responses.

Prochaska shared she is hopeful the program will grow with her students, eventually having her students write out their responses.

“I am visualizing in the future my kids being able to write full sentences,” Prochaska said.

Prochaska feels that this program teaches her students something she couldn’t necessarily teach before, the concept of communication through writing. She shared that the way the letters are being written is helping students by having them answer questions and opening a dialogue.

“I think it is great that there is a group at Iowa State who reaches out to do anything with our schools,” Prochaska said.

By doing a service that helps a part of the Ames community most college students wouldn’t think twice about, Carrasco feels this program exemplifies the kind of giving back NRHH hopes to accomplish.