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Pen Pals Here And There

Third grade students at Alexandria's Lyles Crouch Traditional Academy just became "pen pals" with students at Maphakama Primary School in South Africa. It is all part of a student learning exchange program under the aegis of two Northern Virginia Rotary Clubs and Rotary District 7610.

On January 28 William Jarrett, president-elect, and Patrick Clarke, member, of the Alexandria Club, and James Vollmer from the Herndon Club left Dulles International Airport for a three week trip to South Africa. Its purpose was to explore possibilities for Rotary sponsorship of various projects.

The team's aim was to explore endeavors designed to "help improve literacy, provide safe and clean drinking water, build educational standards, help children who are handicapped, and promote health systems that focus on the prevention and treatment of AIDS/HIV." Rotary International and Rotary Clubs world wide have spent more than $600 million in efforts to eradicate polio and other communicable diseases among children, according to Dr. George Pera, Alexandria Rotary Club.

On April 3, Pera and Jarrett came to Lyles Crouch to discuss with a group of third graders their desire to become part of this international idea/learning exchange program. "Part of what Rotary wants to do is send books to children in South Africa. And, you can be pen pals with children there. That way each of you can learn about the other," Pera told the students assembled in the school library.

"When we were in Africa we got students at the Maphakama School to write letters to students here and here they are," Jarrett told the students. "Would you like to have a pen pal over in Africa?" he asked.

The answer was an overwhelming yes. That was buttressed by Ruby Osia, librarian at Lyles Crouch, who was overseeing the student participation. "This is a wonderful experience for both groups," she said.

Located at 530 S. Saint Asaph St., Lyles Crouch Traditional Academy has as its mission to "provide each student with the skills necessary to successfully meet the challenges of a changing society." Parents and community volunteers play a key role in this goal, according to the school's literature.

Programs at the school are divided into six categories, providing volunteers with a menu of options to suit their interests and time availability. Each category is coordinated by a parent volunteer in conjunction with a school staff member.