Grace Wan, ‘18
Now into its second year, BHSEC Cleveland is among the newest members of the BHSEC community. Located in – you guessed it – Cleveland, Ohio, the institution has the same vision as its Manhattan counterpart: to provide an opportunity for rigorous college-level studies at an early age. Professor Walk, the BHSEC Manhattan Pen Pals coordinator, described the connection as being “unique and weird.” She stated, “The goal of BHSEC Pen Pals is to help students connect with other students who are a part of this grand experiment.”
The program was introduced last year by a BHSEC Manhattan student who was surprised to learn that there were multiple other BHSEC institutions. BHSEC Pen Pals made an appearance at the 2014 Club Fair, and soon curiosity spread from person to person, then the school. What were other BHSECs like?
The Pen Pals program pairs a BHSEC Cleveland student with a BHSEC Manhattan student, and the two exchange hand-written letters transported by traditional postal service. While the letters are currently being mailed between the two schools, the objective is to eventually allow the process to be self-run, with each pen pal able to send their letters directly to their respective partner. Having recently sent replies to the first letters of the year, pens pals from BHSEC Manhattan are expecting a batch of responses from Cleveland during the week of November 9th.
The process was not without its challenges; uncertainties and questions about the program arose. Which BHSEC institution would be a good match? Would snail mail prove to leave too large a gap between sending a letter and receiving one in return?
Despite the initial apprehension, BHSEC Cleveland responded to BHSEC Manhattan’s inquiry email with an equal amount of enthusiasm. The participants agreed that the delay in responses would only build suspense and excitement for each letter. Jessica Irimescu, a 10th grader and member of the program, commented, “Handwritten letters, in my opinion, are able to tell you more about a person than digital messages. You’re able to see this person’s writing style, there’s more emotion present, it allows for a real connection to form because people are actually putting effort into these, more effort than a message that’s been typed and emailed.”
In the program’s first year, the initial batch of letters was sent by a group of hopeful BHSEC Manhattan students. With the process of sending and receiving letters being uncommon for most, the process met a few setbacks on its first attempt. The program was brought back for the 2015-2016 school year, this time with an inquiry from BHSEC Cleveland. Once received, letters were quickly claimed, and responses were soon sent out. Finding a match for every student who wanted a pen pal proved to be a tricky task, as there was an unequal number of students who wished to sign up for the program. While there is currently a waiting list of approximately five people for a pen pal, Professor Walk encourages anyone who wishes to contact other BHSEC institutions – for example, BHSEC New Orleans or the newly opened BHSEC Baltimore – to speak to her about a plan of action.
Having already completed an exchange from Cleveland to Manhattan and back to Cleveland, the current program is on its way to becoming a tradition in the BHSEC community.