Building Connections Through Written Words

Pen Pal Club Ambition

As the scribbling of pencils and pens upon an array of stationery is heard from down the fine arts building hallway, junior Celeste Lee stands in front of the laughter-filled classroom with her co-president sophomore Audrey Lin. After describing what their project is for the day, and going over the slides they strategically put together to project onto the art room’s whiteboard, the two walk around with huge smiles on their faces and observe how the members are doing. 

“I believe the purpose of our club is to let people kind of go back to that traditional letter writing because I feel like, with the digital age, we don’t really focus on the thought and time that it takes to form connections through pen and paper,” Lin said.

Having previously been in contact with one another due to the IB mentor-mentee program, the two instantly formed a connection and became friends. When Lee first came up with the idea of starting the club around the time virtual school was still occurring, she called Lin and they discussed her idea. This is when they made a plan to start the club, and Lee dubbed Lin the president role alongside her. 

“I’ve always been interested in pen-palling [and] I would always scroll through Pinterest and YouTube and see all these people writing pen pal letters and making their art really cool,” Lee said. “Starting a pen pal club during school was the perfect opportunity for people to meet people from other countries, other states and just to build relationships and friendships.” 

The club’s main goal is to create a connection between the multitude of cultures and communities that exist in the world by assigning each member with a pen pal and having them learn about the others’ experiences. This isn’t only limited to high school students, as they have previously hosted service projects such as writing letters to the Carrollton Health and Rehabilitation Center and contributing to the Angel Card Project

“I know that some students have an interest in or experience with calligraphy, and so we’re thinking about doing a calligraphy workshop,” club sponsor and art teacher Tiffany Alvarez-Thurman said. “I know [Lee] wants to do service projects where they’re writing to maybe seniors in senior living or active military abroad. I think just this reviving of the act of writing by hand is something that I think will benefit students a lot.”

As of the first semester, they’ve made three proper connections, with their focus being on Sequoia High School and Baton Rouge Magnet High School. They plan to have five connections by the end of the year, but as to not overwhelm the members, they’re only planning to enact at least two or three of them. 

“I don’t want to give specific prompts because I don’t want it to feel like homework, but [the topics will be] basic things like sharing hobbies [and] reflections,” Lee said. “We also have this thing called a joint diary, which is basically an activity where two classmates can share a journal and pass it week to week with self-reflections and just stuff that’s on their mind. So that’s also kind of something we include, but we kind of keep it self-led.”

With Alvarez-Thurman being the club’s sponsor, she is the one to make contact with other clubs or organizations nationally and internationally to make sure there are activities to work on during the club’s time and also procures supplies for the students to have. Otherwise, she leaves the two presidents to their own devices. 

“I think that Celeste, for sure, has a really good handle on it,” Alvarez-Thurman said. “She really wants it to be a place where students learn about how to write letters because it’s kind of a dying art. It’s not just necessarily about the pen pal experience, although that is very valuable as well, but more about sort of the art of writing.”

The members in the club each month have been consistent, with around 25 solid members coming each time, and about 10 have come to at least one of them. 

“One of my friends is one of the co-founders and she told me about it, and I was interested in stationery beforehand, so I decided to join and it turned out to be a really good idea,” member and sophomore Anna Kaippallimalil said. “I’ve had [the] ability to conversate with a few people [and] they were really cool, and I was able to connect with them through similar interests.”

The last meeting of the first semester is Dec. 7 after school, with the latest updates and information on the club’s service opportunities and future meetings being on their Google Classroom with the code u7ctsbe and their Instagram

“I don’t want them to just exchange phone numbers and then just text from there,” Lin said. “I want them to be able to form this special kind of contact that they might not have had before, which is sending letters to each other and just having that joy of getting or receiving anything in their letters.”


Members of the Pen Pal Club work hard to complete one of their first projects during the Nov.2 meeting.