SOUTH LOS ANGELES — After five months of communication, students from George Washington Carver Elementary School met their pen pals May 26.
The pen pals were members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Black Peace Officers Association who sent weekly emails to 62 third grade students and 20 special education students as part of the Sheriff’s Department’s e-Pal program that is designed to improve relationships between students and law enforcement officers and encourage the students to read, write and do well in school.
The program began in 2016. This year it expanded to become a reading program in which volunteer deputies came into classrooms and read books to the students once a week and then discussed what they had read with the students.
Besides the volunteer readers, the deputies and students exchanged emails on a weekly basis and sometimes exchanged hand-written letters.
Even Sheriff Jim McDonnell took part in the correspondence, sending both emails and letters to the students taking part in the program.
The celebration at the school May 26 gave the students a chance to meet face to face with their e-Pals.
Third-grader Luis Calixto may have summed up the experience the best in his hand-written letter to Lt. Chad Sauter.
“When I’m big I want to be a police [officer] and get the people doing bad stuff,” he wrote. “Anyway, I want to be like you! I will study a lot and more.”
The program was designed to empower, encourage and foster students to develop a love of learning, reading and writing. School administrators noted the reading program was a great addition and the students looked forward to seeing the deputy sheriff volunteers on a weekly basis.
And, after five months of sending emails and letters to their e-Pals, the students improved their spelling, reading comprehension, vocabulary, grammar and writing skills.
The sheriff’s deputies taking part in the program also found the experience rewarding, not only in cultivating positive law enforcement and community relationships, but also the opportunity to inspire young people.
At the end of the event at Carver, there was an even bigger surprise for the students who took part in the program.
The Century Sheriff’s Station’s Youth Athletic Program provided refurbished bicycles and safety helmets for all 82 participants.
And, to encourage the students’ reading, writing and comprehension over the summer months, the Sheriff’s Department provided students with a gift bag containing coloring books, crayons, personalized writing journals that included 30 hand-written creative writing prompts, three-dimensional bookmaking kits, bookmarks and scholastic books from the Los Angeles County Public Library.
The program was conducted by the Sheriff’s Department and the Compton Unified School District, which operates Carver Elementary.