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My buddy and me: Kids Fair unites pen pal ''buddies''

BY SHANNON PETTYPIECE
Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 12, 2001

A dozen yellow school buses lined up outside Crisler Arena and more than 1,000 elementary school kids singing "Hail To the Victors" inside Friday morning signaled to anyone nearby that the third annual Kids Fair was underway.

Paul Wong
Engineering freshman Kathy Wu helps out while Tyler McPherson and Lindsay Peet make bead necklaces Friday at the Kids Fair in Crisler Arena.<br><br>JEFF HURVITZ/Daily

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The fair brought elementary school students from Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Detroit to the University for a day of activities with college students. This event is one of many organized by the K-grams pen pal program in an effort to increase University and community interaction.

"The K-Fair gives the elementary students the opportunity to see the many different sides of college ... so that they believe a future education is definitely possible," said K-grams Executive Director Elena Marin, an Engineering junior.

But for many participants, the Kids Fair was a chance to meet the pen pals they have been in contact with for the past few months through biweekly letters.

At the beginning of the school year, children from local elementary schools and University students involved in K-grams were paired up with one another.

The "buddies" corresponded with each other through letters on topics ranging from "Harry Potter" to the presidential election.

The process of collecting and delivering the 1,000 letters each month takes roughly 100 student volunteers.

"I loved the letters," said LSA sophomore Louisa Kennedy. "I put all of them up on my wall."

After the pen pals had met they spent the afternoon participating in activities sponsored by nearly 100 student groups.

Kids Fair attendees participated in such activities as a pie eating contest, valentine decorating, face painting, playing with musical instruments, and spending a few minutes in a solar car.

"This year I liked making bracelets, flowers, and playing Twister. It was a pretty good K-Fair," said 10-year-old Maddy, a fifth grader from Northside Elementary in Ann Arbor and a three-year veteran of the Kids Fair.

"My favorite part was meeting my buddy," said Maddy, although she won the pie eating contest and four Twister games.

The activities sponsored by University student groups not only entertained the kids, but also the groups volunteering.

"It"s a great way to get involved with the community and fun playing with the kids," said Jeremy Segall, an LSA senior who helped out at the K-fair through Sigma Alpha Mu.

"One smile on their face makes it all worth while, it"s about making kids happy and getting them involved," said Ani Shehigian, internal relations director for K-grams and an LSA junior.

Besides having fun, Martin said K-grams teaches leadership and teamwork.

"K-grams has taught me an enormous amount about people and a hard working business environment. It has been the best experience of my college career," she said.

K-grams was started by Business School student Rishi Moudgil in 1998.


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