Indigenous University students exchange letters with younger Indigenous students on topics like the transition to University life, the student experience, and more.
About the Project
The Pen Pal Project is a pilot project in the beginning stages of development. Participating communities will co-create, with the Branches Program, a system wherein students exchange letters. The community school identifies the class that will participate, and the Branches Program recruits current Indigenous McGill students or McGill Indigenous Alumni to respond to the letters from the students in community. The community schoolteacher will determine the topics of the letters; usually the letters focus on the Indigenous student experience, university life, and transition from their home community to an urban and academic setting. The hope for this project is for students to form a connection with an Indigenous student, have their questions answered, and break down the wall between them and post-secondary education.
The goal of this project is to facilitate discussion and open a space for younger Indigenous students to ask questions to the older Indigenous students. Providing this type of dialogue can be difficult due to the geographic distance between McGill students and students in community. However, the use of letters is a way to establish and, most importantly, sustain that connection. In addition to the mentorship aspect of this project, there is also an academic benefit for the younger students. Writing letters gives students the opportunity to develop their grammar, spelling, and other crucial skills.
So far, there are two participating communities. There is an Anishinaabe community in Northern Ontario as well as an Inuit community in Nunavik. Ten McGill Indigenous students have signed up to participate as writers. As the project grows and more communities express interest in being involved, the invitation to participate as writers will open up to McGill Indigenous Alumni. The hope for this project is for students to form a connection with an Indigenous student, have their questions answered, and break down the wall between them and post-secondary education.