Donate ❤

Writing: Out with the old and in with the new?

Author: Elizabeth Figueroa

No! Writing helps you be cool.

Some think it’s a lost art, the business of writing. Typing, on a computer or on a smartphone, is the way to go for most folks.

However, in three 5th grade classrooms at Anne Darling Elementary and three English 1B classrooms at San Jose State University, handwritten letters exist! And it’s all thanks to Dr. Cathy Gabor who developed the Writing Partners Program about 5 years ago.

Writing Partners helps elementary students and mentors alike in the following ways:

  • The Writing Process (format, content, editing, etc)
  • Organizing thoughts
  • Grammar and spelling
  • Narration skills
  • Legible handwriting
  • Drawing skills (for the creatives)

While all of the above could be an average lesson in any class, Writing Partners offers a prize to keep an eye on: a face to face meeting with the person they are getting to know.

The process could almost be compared to preparing for a job interview. There’s a little more pressure on the writers of these letters when you want to be liked by the reader; more pressure than if you were to hand it into a teacher as a regular assignment. You want to look good, sound smart and seem exciting to the reader.  You want to be cool through your writing. And Writing Partners pushes you to be the coolest you can be…for your Writing Partner.


After writing about topics like cultural celebrations, college life, siblings, hobbies, pets, school activities, favorites (or non-favorites/dislikes) and trying to sound like the most exciting person to ever meet, the moment of truth arrives: the end of semester culminating event.

The culminating event, which has replaced a traditional final exam for SJSU students who participate in Writing Partners, is a sight to behold.

Nerves, excitement, and shyness fill the air. Mentors rattle off some of the cool things they wrote about and the mentees, after realizing that THIS is the moment they’ve been waiting for, claim their Writing Partners.

This is the person they have been trying to impress through their improved writing skills. Every year, the consensus is, that it was completely worth it! Once shyness and nerves give way to full blown excitement, conversation erupts and groups are sent off to give Anne Darling Elementary students a personalized tour of their mentor’s favorite spots on campus.


Now, it wouldn’t be a full CommUniverCity project if we didn’t really hammer home the idea that college is the place to be after high school and provide them with ideas and tools to help them succeed in that journey. The kids are treated to an MLK Library Tour, which includes the yet-to-be-open-to-the-public Teen Headquarters. It is filled with a Makerspace, a recording studio, a conference space, and more. They are also given a glimpse into  potential career paths via a presentation from the Don Edward Wildlife Refuge, a tour of the entire Department of Television, Radio, Film and Theatre at SJSU…and even some juggling! It’s a real day in the campus life of an SJSU Student.


CommUniverCity is so grateful to be able to provide all parties with such great opportunities. We strive to connect children with SJSU Departments and help encourage a college-going experience for every young student.

Leave a Reply

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: