Sept. 26, 2012
MADISON, Wis. -- For the past several years, members of the UW Guest Services staff have written letters to the third grade students of Frank Whiteley Elementary in Hoffman Estates, Ill., encouraging its students to work hard in the classroom.
The students are part of the No Excuses University program that strives to prepare at-risk students for college through the use of symbolism to promote educational success and enhance school spirit. Each classroom involved in the program adopts a university and the university’s culture is integrated into various academic subjects.
For teacher Amber Danielczyk, the University of Wisconsin was a natural choice for her classroom. The Wisconsin native reached out to several campus partners before receiving a response from Director of Guest Services Ben Fraser who enthusiastically agreed to help.
For the past several years, Fraser has recruited members of his staff to serve as pen pals for the students of Danielczyk’s classroom. The guest services staff exchange letters on a monthly basis with their ‘pen pals’ and also send them Wisconsin memorabilia such as posters, schedule cards and pictures.
Amanda Wiener is one of the guest services staff members who agreed to be a part of the program this year. After serving as a pen pal last year, she is excited to be a part of the program again.
“I would get so anxious to receive these letters from multiple kids and I could tell from what they wrote that they were excited to be writing me as well,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to this year.”
The letters from Wiener and the other guest services staff have quite an impact on Danielczyk’s students.
“Words cannot express the power these letters have on the students in my classroom,” she said. “The pen pals serve as a source of positive encouragement and as a ‘safe’ adult to answer questions, celebrate daily successes and befriend.”
Danielczyk holds a “University Spirit” day every Friday to celebrate students’ efforts and commitment to achievement. The excitement during these days, however, pales in comparison to the excitement of the students when they receive letters from their pen pals.
“The fond memories the ‘Badgers’ in my classroom have made will last a lifetime,” Danielczyk said. “I am grateful for our partnership with Guest Services.”