The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 14, 2012

Pen pal program unites students with athletes

By MARGIE NETZEL - mnetzel@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP —  It’s on like volleyball at Spire Institute, where classrooms and students will go head-to-head to support rival Mid-American Conference (MAC) Women’s Volleyball teams in the name of pen pal loyalty.

Students in first through sixth grades at Cork, Geneva Platt R. Spencer, Austinburg and Jefferson elementary schools have been fraternizing with the athletes via mail, Spire Director of Media and Public Relations Diana Munz said, and they are all rooting for the new buddies they met in the MAC Adopt a Classroom program.

“We have kids from 16 classrooms — one classroom for each team,” Munz said. “Each team adopts a classroom and the athletes and the kids exchange letters all the way up until the tournament this weekend.”

This spike-the-ball pen pal program encourages students to ask the athletes questions about their hometowns, their universities, volleyball, and their friends.

“It becomes a very interesting writing exercise,” Munz said. “Now the kids are super excited to meet these athletes. They have made posters to support the teams, and on Thursday the athletes and the students meet.”

This face-to-face meeting is more than just a handshake, Munz said, as the athletes and students will enjoy a photo booth, they will make signs for their teams and play games.

“The students will actually get to see their teams play,” she said. “They get to root on their athlete and see them in action.”

Beyond writing and receiving letters, the students have the opportunity to see how hard work pays off, in volleyball and beyond, Munz said.

“It is a really fun program because it gives kids the excitement and getting and sending letters, and lets them see how hard the athletes work,” she said. “Kids can see that anything can happen if they work hard. That doesn’t just translate to sports. Hard work and dedication is the key to success in anything.”

The fun doesn’t end Thursday, Munz said, as the games, fake tattoo booth, sign making, and other activities will be available to all children who attend the MAC tournament through Sunday.

“MAC is really something special because it bring teams from afar and it brings the community to the athletes,” she said.

Central Michigan is the defending champion of the MAC tournament.

The MAC tournament will be held at Spire on Friday through Sunday, located on North Broadway.

The quarterfinals will be held Friday with the semifinals on Saturday and the championship on Sunday. The top eight teams will contend for the automatic trip to the National Collegiate Athletic Asso-ciation (NCAA) Tournament.