After three months of writing letters back and forth, Aguilar Library students and CUNY's City Tech students met one another at the holiday pen pal party at City Tech on Wednesday, December 14, 2011. Students from both sites were excited to meet each other and find out more about their new friend! Traveling from 110th Street on the East Side, Aguilar Library students and their tutors made their visit a true learning experience by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset. They checked out the view, learned about the 130-year-old structure, and explored the Brooklyn Waterfront. And they even made a stop at Jacques Torres Chocolatier and Jane's Carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Initially the students found it a bit awkward greeting each other for the first time, but after a few moments, they warmed up and became more and more comfortable as they chatted, looked at world maps to see which continent their pen pal was from, and shared the holiday fare.
Writing letters back and forth was an authentic learning activity that took planning, effort, and new English skills. All of the students were struggling with their writing skills, but to have the opportunity to share something about themselves with other students was not only fun, it gave them the opportunity to offer advice to each other. One pair of writers is planning on a visit to one's native country, and another is hoping to meet regularly as they continue their letter writing!
Jay Klokker of City Tech said, "It was wonderful to see my ESL students at New York City Tech finally meeting their pen pals from the Aguilar [Library's] Center [for Reading and Writing] face to face. There were lots of smiles and laughter, heaps of delicious food and many conversations — in English! — about their lives, their cultures and countries, and their plans for the future."
This was a true collaboration between two literacy programs in two different boroughs: CUNY and NYPL, and Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Let's hope it's the beginning of many more!