Letter to Me activity has meaningful impact

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Photo by jppi, Morguefile.com

Freshmen in Wildcat Focus write letters to themselves that they'll receive back when they're seniors.

Alexa Passafiume, Staff Writer

As fun as the process of writing and receiving the “Letter to Me” is for students, the Wildcat Focus activity has a lot of thought and work behind it.

Creator of the Wildcat Focus program, Tina Monastero, was inspired to create this activity after hearing Brad Paisley’s song “Letter to Me.” Monastero said, “I got the idea because I love Brad Paisley. I had gotten a newsletter that talked about his different songs, and it had an article about how he wrote the letter to me.”

After hearing the story behind Paisley’s letter, Monastero decided to incorporate the idea into the Wildcat Focus classrooms. She said, “I thought writing letters would be something neat for the kids to do and see how much they’ve grown from freshman to senior year.”

Freshman Carolina Stefanski said, “Writing the letter was cool because I’ll be able to see if how I feel now during freshman year is the same as how I’ll feel senior year. I want to see if my goals are the same and see if I’ve reached my fullest potential.”

Brad Paisley’s music video is played to the freshmen at the beginning of the activity to inspire them about what to include in their own letters. Wildcat Focus adviser Kelly Lynch believes the letter writing process is eye-opening for students. She said, “I think when they see the video it shows them the idea of looking back, but then when we write the letters, it gives them a chance to look forward to see what they can expect.”

The process of writing the letters takes course over two days, one day for inspiration and rough drafts, and another for finalizing the letters and sealing the envelopes. Once the letters are sealed, the process of keeping and storing them for three years takes place.

“Once I get them we organize them and put them into alphabetical order and I keep them up in the Wildcat Focus office in a box with the year of their graduation,” said Monastero.

When the three years have passed, the senior class then receives the letters back in the middle of the school year. Monastero said, “When returning them, I organize them based off the homerooms and try to find all the kids and then have someone go and make the announcement and play the song ‘Letter to Me’ and hand them out to the seniors all at once.”

For those seniors who no longer attend Mayfield, the letters can still be delivered to them. Monastero said, “I try to locate students who have moved as best as I can and ask kids for addresses and a lot of times kids will come back and ask for their letter. One student came back after moving to Canada over the summer and asked me if he could have his letter.”

Monastero realizes how impactful the letter returns can be for seniors. “I think the seniors that, as a freshman, put forth effort and really thought about their letter and wrote something that was meaningful get the most out of it,” she said. “Those who don’t want to cooperate or write the letter are the seniors that are let down when they get their letter because it wasn’t a meaningful activity for them.”

This year, the freshman class saw the significance of the letter writing process. Freshman Emily Steffey said, “Writing the letter was very interesting because it took me back to some memories that I wanted to write down and all the experiences that I want to look back on and laugh at. I just want to see how my grades and things have changed and maybe what I’m still struggling with.”

Lynch, who gets to see both the process of freshman writing letters and seniors opening them, said, “I like seeing the excitement of the seniors when they get it back. The idea of them being able to remember some of the things that they actually wrote in there and then again some of the things that they didn’t remember is coming back now and they get to share their excitement with the freshman.”

Seeing the excitement of the seniors made the juniors’ anticipation of getting the letters back next year rise. Junior Rachel Ricchiuto said, “When the seniors got their letters back, it made me excited to get my own back to see how I was then and how I’ve transformed into the person I am now.”

Monastero plans to continue the “Letter to Me” activity in Wildcat Focus in the future. She said, “I absolutely plan to keep doing this activity. There’s nothing more meaningful to me as a teacher than seeing kids being excited about getting their letter back and especially watching kids sharing their letters.”