2,200. We’re not referring to the number of megawatts one of our nuclear plants produces. Instead, it’s the total number of students and employees who have participated in the pen pal programs at Catawba and McGuire nuclear stations since its start more than 10 years ago.
Initially, the pen pal program was created to help elementary school students improve their writing and reading skills by providing a fun and interactive way to practice and improve those skills. But, as it grew, the program has come to mean much more. Through letters and conversations with pen pals, employees spark students’ interest in careers they may have never known about. In return, the pen pal program has enabled employees to serve in mentorship roles, possibly empowering young students to pursue a career in the nuclear industry.
Each year, Catawba and McGuire nuclear station employees are paired with students who engage in spirited exchanges of ideas and updates throughout the school year. This year, nearly 90 eager employee pen pals, representing a variety of departments, are participating in the pen pal project, working with children via handwritten letters and connecting them in lasting ways.
“Not only does the project allow students to improve their penmanship, but writing about their world and reading about someone else’s helps build vocabulary and reading skills. It also develops critical thinking and problem solving skills and helps children feel connected by sharing their stories and reading about another person’s life experiences” explains Lisa Leonard, a long-time pen pal at McGuire.
After several months of sharing letters, pen pals meet face-to-face to share conversations and experiences over a picnic lunch and games.