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K-grams hosts fair to unite pen pals

By Charlotte Jenkins, Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 13, 2013

1,000 elementary-school students clad in tie-dye outfits packed the Intramural Sports Building and Cliff Keen Arena Friday for the 15th annual K-grams Kids Fair at the University.

Kids Fair is the culmination of the K-grams’ year-long pen pal program, which pairs University students with elementary school students. The purpose of the event is for all pen pals to meet in person. Business senior Kristin Kowalchyk, director of public relations for K-grams, said 1,000 pen pals participated in the program.

The fair is a day-long event where elementary school students participate in “edu-active” activities put on by University student organizations. In accordance with the theme of this year’s fair, “K-Zoo,” organizers created habitat-themed zones, such as jungle, safari, arctic and underwater.

This year, 60 student organizations hosted booths at the event, down from last year’s total of 80 student organizations. Thirteen elementary schools from Detroit, Ypsilanti, Willow Run and Ann Arbor participated in the pen pal program and attended the Kids Fair.

Education senior Amanda Webster, executive director of K-grams, said the intent of the Kids Fair is to show the students the benefits of higher education in a fun environment.

“A lot of the schools we work with are lower socio-economic status, Title 1 schools with free or reduced lunch,” Webster said. “It’s sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy that these kids don’t have family members who went to college, they don’t see it.”

The Michigan Marching Band hosted a booth where children could try out a horn, trombone, trumpet or piccolo. The University’s chapter of the American Chemical Society hosted a booth that showed the children how to make lava lamps, and the University’s Dance Team taught them dance routines with pom-poms.

Webster said she wanted to show the kids that college is possible for them. She said the pen pal program and Kids Fair will help the kids imagine themselves on a college campus.

LSA junior Michelle Franklin coordinates the K-Grams pen pal program for West Quad Residence Hall, where she is a Resident Advisor.

“I have a passion for learning,” Franklin said. “It is cool because I get to write to them every week and rub off on them.”

Ten-year-old Olivia Lee, a student at Mitchell Elementary School in Ann Arbor, said she loved the Kids Fair because it was the culmination of her correspondence with her pen pal.

“I get to see my pen pal and learn lots of cool stuff,” Lee said.