For around 20 years, the ePals program has paired volunteers from with fourth and fifth grade students at .
This year, around 180 employees — many of whom have participated for over 15 years — committed to forming a relationship with an ePal over the course of the school year.
At the end of the year, the students and volunteers met for the first time to participate in a service project, cleaning up .
“ePals started out as a pen pal program and evolved over the years into an email program,” Danette Melchionne said. “We used to have a party at the end of the year where everyone would meet for the first time, but we decided a few years ago to do something in their own backyard — they don’t have a lot of green space at their school so this is really K.T. Murphy’s playground.”
For the past five years, the ePals participants have added to their garden each spring — planting saplings, creating native planting beds, and picking up trash around the playground and picnic pavilion.
GE Employee Sandy Mattioli has been a part of the program for around twelve years.
“It’s nice to get to know the kids where you live,” Mattioli said. “So many kids are from single parent families, they might not have an older sibling they can talk to.”
Teachers at K.T. Murphy use the ePals program as a way to hone keyboarding skills as well as teach Microsoft Word, email, and the writing process.
“We get to know one another, I tell them about my family and what I do,” Mattioli said. “I stress the importance of reading and writing well and giving back to your community.”
Mattioli and the rest of the volunteers see the children’s writing skills improving over the course of the school year through their correspondence and have a chance to put a face with the name at the end of the year.
For the fourth graders in the program, they can often keep their ePal for their fifth grade year too, continuing to build that relationship with an adult in the community and learn to give back through their shared community service.
“If they pick up a piece of trash, maybe they’ll be less likely to throw one down,” Melchionne said.