Establishing an online community one email at a time

Spartan+Assembly%E2%80%99s+online+committee+meets+on+a+Saturday+morning+to+discuss+their+upcoming+game+night+and+adjustments+to+the+virtual+pen+pal+program.

Ramya Subramaniam

Spartan Assembly’s online committee meets on a Saturday morning to discuss their upcoming game night and adjustments to the virtual pen pal program.

Ramya Subramaniam, Student Life Editor

Since the beginning of the school year, approximately 10 percent of PV high schoolers have been learning from home, which has caused them to lose out on the feeling of camaraderie and socialization shared by in-person students.

One Spartan Assembly, PV’s student council, member noticed this and decided to create a program to help the online students feel a greater sense of community. Sophomore Gretchen Highberger brought up the concern at a council meeting and quickly formed a committee of online students to address the fact that online students don’t get to socialize like in-person students.

Highberger had a strong motivation for this committee to be successful and, alongside her committee, instantly began brainstorming different ways to engage online students. I just reflected on what I wished someone would do for me,” Highberger commented. 

Even though online students are expected to join through live streams, many times they come and go without any interaction or communication, which can create a disconnect — especially among freshmen and new students.

After taking input from all Spartan Assembly members, the online committee decided to create a pen pal program for online students.

They started by reaching out to the counseling office to get a list of all the new online students at the high school and sent out an email to the students, who upon their interest, were paired with an online-only Spartan Assembly member as a pen pal.

Once the program got going with the new students, Spartan Assembly members reached out to teachers and asked for lists of students they thought would appreciate the program. The members of Spartan Assembly email their pen pals about once a week in hopes of creating a relationship and point of communication for online students.

Over the past few months, this program has been running with a lot of success. “Of course, there have been some bumps along the way, but overall, it’s been beneficial for both the students in Spartan Assembly and the students they are connecting with,” Highberger commented.

Freshman Prothsa Shekar, a participant in the pen pal program, shared her experience. “[The program] makes me feel like I am [a] part of something,” she said.

Online students miss out on the social opportunity of going to in-person school. Like Shekar, many freshman and new online students have no social connection to the school. Spartan Assembly’s program gave these students an opportunity to meet someone and learn more about the traditions at PV.

Currently, Spartan Assembly and Highberger are working on a game night for online students where they will play games like WikiSeach, Skribbl.io and an in-home scavenger hunt. The first game night is scheduled for Feb. 24 and students can sign up through the link sent to their Campus Portal.