BROCKWAY – “Dear Lauren,” the letter begins.

“Hello, my name is Anna Furlini. I am 10 years old. I am from Italy.”

It’s one of the letters that students in Trento, Italy have exchanged with fifth graders at Brockway Area Elementary School through a pen pal program this school year.

Stephanie Donati, the speech language pathologist at the school, has been carrying out the initiative with fifth graders in teacher Alissa Carnahan’s class. Elementary librarian Vanessa Olivio has also been involved.

“The students are very excited about it,” Donati said.

As a result of their correspondence, the students have been learning about different aspects of the culture in Trento, which is located in northern Italy.

They’ve learned about foods in Italy such as polenta and crespella and sports such as Tamburello, according to Donati.

She said the letter writing is “another form of communication for the students to engage in,” and it helps them with the writing on their PSSA’s.

While today’s generation may be more familiar with email and texting, the students have taken to the old-fashioned art of letter writing.

“It’s nice writing to people,” commented one of the Brockway students, Lauren Rendos.

Rendos was the student corresponding with Anna Furlini.

“Thank you for writing back to me,” Rendos wrote in her letter, which she decorated with a big smiley face and a drawing of her Halloween costume. “I enjoyed reading your letter. Do you celebrate Halloween?” She also asked the Italian girl what she wanted for Christmas and what sport she plays.

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In her letter to Rendos, Furlini shared some facts about herself.

She wrote that she’s also in the fifth grade, her birthday is April 22, her favorite color is light blue, she has a dog named Alu, she has two brothers, her favorite food is soup and her favorite subject is “religion.”

Although the Brockway students speak English as their language, the students in Italy are only learning to write and speak English.

Donati noted that the Brockway students are also sending the students in Italy two large posters, one for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas, that show different holiday words.

They also are sending them paper gingerbread men that they made, with recipes for gingerbread men on the back.

Donati started the pen pal program following a visit to Italy last year. She visited the school of her cousins’ children and met the instructor who teaches them English.

The teacher suggested the pen pal program so her students could practice writing English.

Olivio said the pen pal program is a great experience for the students.

“The kids like to write,” she commented. “They always ask, ‘did we get our letters back?’”

And a little bit of Italy has rubbed off on the Brockway students.

She noted that some of the Brockway students have started signing their letters with “ciao.”

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