Dear Coug Pal...
Jan. 23, 2012
For the past year, Washington State University student-athletes and elementary students have been developing unique friendships through a program based on relationships through writing.
The Coug Pals program pairs Sunnyside elementary students with WSU student-athletes to exchange letters twice a month on themed topics. The student and his/her WSU student-athlete discuss everything from family to interests and hobbies. The program offers the student athletes a chance to get involved in their community, as well as make an impact on the lives of the local children. Working together throughout the semester, the partnership improves the writing skills of these young students, and creates memories to last a life time.
"The program provides a very authentic experience for the young kids involved," says WSU Athletics Program Coordinator Kari Sampson. "Coug Pals gives elementary students a chance to practice real life writing skills and develop lasting relationships."
Coug Pals was built off the decade long success of Reading Buddies, a program that has been partnering Cougar student-athletes with elementary students in the Pullman area to focus on reading development. And like its predecessor, Coug Pals is showing signs of sustainability.
Since its inception in 2010, Coug Pals has grown rapidly. In this past year, over 41 student-athletes participated in the program at Sunnyside Elementary School.
The program is beginning its second year, and now branching out to Jefferson Elementary and doubling in size with an increased number of student athletes participating.
"Our goal is to expand to a third school within the next year," says Sampson. "We currently have 80 student-athletes signed up for this semester, doubling the total from earlier this year."
The amount of support the student-athletes have offered the program is a true testament to the experiences gained.
"Before I began (Coug Pals) I didn't think that the letters would be so responsive; but through the topics we covered I really got to know my Coug Pal," says women's soccer player Rachael Doyle. "We shared our favorite memories of holidays, favorite vacations and I could really feel the energy from my Coug Pal through their writing.
"It was rewarding seeing my buddy improve in her writing skills over the semester," Doyle adds. "The program was meant to help our buddies improve their writing, but I think it has benefited them in more ways than that. I think my favorite part of the experience was interacting with the kids and their great imagination."
Doyle plans to continue the relationship that she formed with her buddy spring semester and hopes to exchange more letters in the near future.
Doyle and many other student-athletes continue to take time out of their busy schedules to make an impact on those around them.
Athletes from each of Washington State's 17 sports have volunteered for both Reading Buddies and Coug Pals this past year, accumulating over 400 hours of service for the Pullman community.
"Having our campus located in a community that gives so much to us, it is important that we give back with any chance we have," says Sampson. "Opportunities like Coug Pals and Reading Buddies allow our athletes a very personal experience to serve the community in which they live, and I think that makes their time at WSU more meaningful.
"To see such a response from our student-athletes is a great sign for the longevity of the program."
Official Website of Washington State University Athletics | Bohler Athletic Complex | PO Box 641602 Pullman, WA 99164-1602 | 1.800.GO.COUGS