Bread Loaf Pen Pal Program Doubled in Size At Start of Fall Term

Until doubling its size at the start of the academic year, Andover’s Bread Loaf Pen Pal community service program had a lengthy waitlist. “Now it’s open to everyone,” said Alyssa Warren ’08, one of the project’s coordinators. For 20 years, the Bread Loaf project has been pairing Phillips Academy students with third graders from the South Lawrence East School. The two parties correspond through letters every other week. In the past, Andover’s program has included three of the six third-grade classes at South Lawrence East. There were about 25 children in each class, meaning approximately 75 third graders and 75 Phillips students were involved, 150 participants in total. At the beginning of the school year, South Lawrence East’s principal asked Phillips Academy’s student coordinators, Matt Cranney ’08, Warren and Zoe Weinberg ’09, if they would be interested in expanding the program to include all six third grade classes. Cranney, Warren and Weinberg agreed to take on the challenge. The program now includes 300 students, half of them from PA. According to Alana Rush, Teaching Fellow in Community Service, the student leaders are confident and enthusiastic about putting in extra effort so they can track down 150 letters each week. “They have done a phenomenal job,” Rush said. Lou Bernieri, Instructor in English, who is the program’s faculty advisor, described it as an “ambitious project.” Despite the extra work, the people who asked for the change are happy with it. Warren expressed how great it is that everyone’s involved. Bernieri said that the change is terrific because now they do not leave anyone out. Said Cranney, “We’re stoked with it.” Weinberg said that she thinks the program will remain the current larger size, which is good news for Phillips Academy students because Bread Loaf has consistently been a popular program at Andover. [Weinberg is an editor at The Phillipian.] The coordinators described the program as easy, fun, and flexible in terms of time commitment – a reason why so many students sign up for it each year. Cranney described the atmosphere in Underwood each Monday night as “social.” They said that people come back each year because they connect with the kids. Warren said that Pen Pals is a good way for people who have never been involved in community service before to give it a try before they graduate. The coordinators now have their sights set on expanding Pen Pals’ sister program, the Writing Workshop. This program meets during sixth period lunch on Thursdays and is harder to fill since many students do not have that lunch period. The Writing Workshop primarily focuses on helping the third graders express themselves. Weinberg said that they do not focus on grammar or mechanics, but on instilling a love of writing.