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One of the first projects to spur from the McKenna Centre for Leadership early on in the pandemic this year, was the Xaverian Pen Pal Project. Alyssa Spridgeon, who thought of the project, has been working to connect students, community members, and elders through written word. 

Alyssa herself is a transfer student to St.FX, where she is now finishing her fourth year of an Honours in Psychology. As the Goalkeeper on the Varsity women’s soccer team, Alyssa has been active in the Xaverian community as soon as she set foot on campus. When the opportunity arose to participate in the community in a new way, during this trying time, Alyssa thought that it was a perfect fit. The endeavour first began when Professor Mathias Nigles posted a prompt in a discussion forum for an English course, asking people to think of ways to encourage social solidarity in this era of social-distancing.

During this holiday season, the project has taken shape in the form of holiday cards. Alyssa hopes that the pen-pal style medium will help foster intergenerational connections. The overall goal of the Xaverian Pen Pal Project is to alleviate the loneliness associated with isolation. 

So far, participation has been very good for the project. Once the holiday cards were printed and placed around town and the StFX campus, students, community members and staff were allowed to submit cards to be sent out. Though the project was originally limited to the scope of our little university in Antigonish, Alyssa notes that she even received cards from a fraternity located at Dalhousie University in Halifax, and a few from other areas of Nova Scotia. Currently, Alyssa is working on sending out the 570 holiday cards received thus far. Recipients of the cards will largely be persons referred to Alyssa, people staying in the hospital during the holidays, as well as long-term care homes in the area. Some cards will even be sent as far as Sydney and Toronto.

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