Volunteers, students team up in penpal program

GREENFIELD — C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” has been a classroom bookshelf classic for six decades, a blockbuster movie hit and, this spring, the topic of a series of letters between Greenfield sixth-graders and their pen pals around the community.

In the third year of the pen pal program, about 80 volunteers of all ages and backgrounds were partnered up with one or two students. In six letters sent back and forth over two months, student and pen pal discussed the book as well as things going on in their lives outside of school.

“It’s a wonderful experience for the kids to learn to write letters ... and how to connect with someone that’s outside of their generation and to get a different perspective on the books we’re reading,” said Cathy Chapman, a sixth-grade teacher at the Greenfield Middle School, who had one of the first classrooms to offer the program.

Students met with their pen pals at school-organized events earlier this month. School staff said they chose the “Chronicles of Narnia” book because it is a fun, classic fantasy story that is part of a seven-book series.

Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura was a pen pal volunteer this year.

“In the first letter, Max addressed his letter to “Dr. Pura.” By the third he wrote, ‘Dear Bobby,’” said Pura. “Does it get any better than that?”

Nancy Craker-Yahman, the school department’s volunteer coordinator, thanked the 180 to 200 people who helped with the pen pal program and other services.

“Whether you have a large community or a smaller community, volunteers are a necessity to having schools be successful,” she said, after a breakfast earlier this month for the school department’s volunteers.

Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Craker-Yahman at 413-772-1316 or volunteer@gpsk12.org.

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