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Calvin and Campau Pen Pals Meet
December 10, 2004

In early December students from Campau Park Elementary School finally met their Calvin College pen pals.

Gathered in the lobby of one of the Calvin apartments were 14 second and third graders from Campau Park and their Calvin pen pals.

The Campau Park students presented their Calvin writing buddies with a handmade Christmas ornament and the Calvin students also gave their Campau pen pals gifts. Then the entire gathering decorated Christmas cookies, sang carols and played games.

“I thought it was really successful. The Calvin students enjoyed themselves. The Campau kids enjoyed themselves,” says Louise Henshaw, the Calvin junior who organized the gathering.

A teacher aide in Alicia Timmer’s combined second and third-grade class at Campau Park, Henshaw initiated the written correspondence between the elementary school and Calvin.

“I thought that would be a great way for me to get Calvin to get connected to the community,” she says.

Henshaw made the first letters from the Calvin pen pals a surprise for the Campau students.

After that, the written exchange flourished.

The Campau children looked forward to the weekly mail from their pen pals and the converse was also true.

"Calvin students were so excited to get their letters," Henshaw says. "It’s a nice study break."

The Christmas meeting was inspired, she adds, by her experience with a pen pal when she was in elementary school in Crystal Lake, Illinois, and got to meet her pen pal.

Calvin has an enduring relationship with Campau Park.

In 2000, Calvin spearheaded an innovative program, which partnered Calvin students and seniors from New Hope Baptist Church with Campau’s students in after-school technology-mentoring relationships. Called the “Computer Kids Club,” the program is now funded by the Grand Rapids Public Schools.

“The Campau school partnership is even further enhanced by this contribution,” says Carol Rienstra, Calvin’s director of community relations. “Louise did a wonderful job of thinking outside the box in making a new connection with the community.”

“One girl told me, ‘Miss Henshaw, this is the best day ever. I don’t want to leave. I want to stay with my pen pal,” Henshaw recalls.

~words by media relations staff writer Myrna Anderson