Writing Partners: Making Mentors and Memories

July 24, 2023
Children standing indoors and waving goodbye

Students say their bittersweet thank yous and goodbyes as they line up to go back to school

Headshot of Veda Dean outside. Veda is wearing a green top and has shoulder length brown hair and bangs.
Veda Dean

“The Writing Partners project was more involved than just writing. I definitely recommend continuing the project,” said Joseph Rowlands, a Freshman computer science major who participated in the Writing Partners project through Dr. Emily Hostutler’s ENG 100 class. 

Writing Partners taught the college students how to adjust their writing to appeal to a younger audience, and to think of themselves as a mentor. “It reminded me of how hard life seemed as a fifth grader and it helped me to appreciate how far I have come,” said Joseph. For the fifth graders, it taught them how to have meaningful communication through written correspondence. Joseph and his 5th-grade partner found they had lots of similar interests, and they plan to stay in contact over the summer. 

children are outside on a grassy field, running and playing.
5th-grade students enjoying the sun on the green
Person Lawn waiting for their bus to arrive 

I was able to witness more friendships like Joseph and his partner’s in a bittersweet moment out on the lawn as the 5th graders prepared for getting on the bus back to school. I could tell that each student looked hopeful for what may await them in their future. I asked Saul, a 5th grader holding a lightsaber and Sonoma State backpack, if he planned to attend college in the future, to which he replied “Yes, this one specifically.” I’ll have graduated by the time Saul gets here, but still want to welcome the future Seawolf!

Modeled after Sacramento State’s program, Writing Partners is a program that partners college students in service-learning classes with a 5th-grade class. This year, they came from Village Elementary in Rincon Valley. Throughout the year, the partnered students exchanged a series of letters with each other. Near the end of the year, the 5th-grade students visited their Sonoma State partners on campus to exchange their final letters and spend the day meeting in person, adventuring, bonding, and having fun. 

For many college students, this was the first time they had been a pen pal, “it was the first time that I had written letters and received a response and continued the conversation,” said Joseph. 

But it wasn’t just fun and games, each student had unique responsibilities, “We all had jobs to do in order to make the day a success, mine was to reach out to various departments on campus and ask for swag to give as prizes,” said Joseph. The college students learned a lot from the program and honed critical skills, Joseph says, “This taught me to write emails, time management, delegation, and so on.” 

students and chaperones are inside the student center, standing and talking
Students talk and reflect back on the fun day
they had.

Writing Partners was a great opportunity for students to reflect on the past, and look to the future of their educational journey. I loved speaking with the students and hearing their thoughts about the program. I saw new college students step into a leadership role, and 5th-grade students were put in an unfamiliar environment – together, they formed friendships and shared dreams for the future.