The Writing Center Pairs Up with Asbury Park Middle School

Students Engage in Pen Pal Program to Improve Writing Skills

The Writing Center is teaming up with fifth-grade students at Asbury Park Middle School in a pen pal program which consists of 17 University members including undergraduate students, graduate students and professors. The University and Asbury Park Middle School sent letters to one another on February 14 in a Valentine’s Day project and the program will continue until May.

This is the “pilot semester” for the program, making it so the partnerships are currently only available to writing assistants employed at the Writing Center. However, Asbury Park Middle School has several other partnerships with the University that other students can be a part of.

The University’s Writing Center is a free resource to all students that helps in all aspects from writing good thesis statements to different types of formatting. However, Neva Lozada, Assistant Director of Writing Services, had more aspirations for the writing assistants.

Lozada became interested in a service learning initiative that the Writing Center could participate in. She found an article that described a pen pal project that other writing centers across the country such as the City University of New York, Eastern Pennsylvanian University and Saint Cloud State University were involved in. “I knew it would be a perfect fit for us here at Monmouth,” Lozada said.

Sarah Rimassa, English and elementary education major, is helping Lozada run the pen pal program and couldn’t agree more with Lozada’s statement. “I thrive off of working with children, so when Neva asked me to help her run the program I was thrilled,” she said. Rimassa hopes to obtain experience in her field and help inspire young writers in the local community. Lozada and Rimassa hope that this is the start to a long-living program.

This idea didn’t go directly from an idea to reality. Lozada first met with Marilyn Ward, Coordinator of Service Learning and Community Programs. They both discussed the viability of the project and its plans. The following week, Ward put Lozada in touch with an administrator from Asbury Park Middle School who was visiting the University for the African-American Read-In. After speaking, the idea started coming together. Lozada then asked Rimassa to take part in this project with her. Rimassa said, “I could not have asked for a better opportunity to partake in. The Asbury Park students were so excited and passionate about the idea when we met them, and they will be a pleasure to work with. They are great kids with big dreams, and I look forward to seeing them all grow.”

In their letters, the students can write about anything they’d like, from how their day is going to what they think about the daily school lunch. Not only will these volunteers be writing back-and-forth with their assigned student, but at the end of semester they will be meeting the nine and 10 year olds at the Asbury Park Middle School to assist them on an end-of-the-year project, which is a writing assignment. Rimassa and Lozada hope that this will give the children an early exposure to college while building their writing skills.

Lozada believes that the writing assistants will benefit by connecting with and inspiring future writers in the community and the children will be able to enhance their own writing skills throughout the semester. She believes the program will build self-confidence in communication skills and thinking about future goals and aspirations by learning how to properly format letters and learn from their very own mentor.

The Writing Center is for students and employees who need help with their writing or wish to improve their work. They offer one-on-one writing assistance in all academic disciplines and at all stages of the writing process, from brainstorming ideas and writing drafts to polishing the final revision and reviewing documentation styles.