Pen Pals Program

Pen pals may seem like a program that would go by the wayside with the prevalence of texting, e-mailing, and Facetiming, but perhaps that’s all the more reason why it is still alive and well at City Academy. 

Each year, our scholars in third through sixth grade are matched with a member of our community – donors, volunteers, board members, alumni, and other friends of City Academy. The pen pal relationship starts with a two-paragraph letter from the student, introducing themself and then asking questions of their new friend. 

Fifth Grade Humanities Teacher Shalawn Fennoy said that pen pal letters give students an avenue to practice writing to an authentic audience, focusing on writing conventions and structure to convey purpose and meaning. Students also learn how to properly address envelopes. Another benefit of the program, Fennoy said, is that it allows our community to stay connected to the school and hear directly from the students about the amazing things happening in the classrooms. 

“Though we have many ways of communicating, there is nothing like something tangible as a letter from your pal,” Fennoy said. “It gives students opportunities to reread letters and reflect on conversations. Pen pal writing gives students a chance to break down the walls and expose students to others who serve within our school community in some capacity.”

Whenever possible, pen pals are matched with the same student from year-to-year so they can continue their relationship. The pals are sometimes even able to meet each other on campus at Buddy Morning, the Annual Luncheon, or Graduation. One such pen pal is Ginger Smith, who serves as City Academy’s Board of Trustees. Ginger has been a pen pal for the past two years and enjoyed interacting with a third-grader named Izzy. 

“I think it’s fun to have a lens into what it’s like being a third-grader in today’s world,” Smith said. “I learned about books she was reading, because I love to read. I learned about video games and she told me all about Minecraft. We talked about our dogs and all the good things they do and bad things they do.” 

Smith said that despite all the advances in technology, it was still important for students to learn how to handwrite a letter or thank you note as those skills are universal. 

“I remember when Izzy was learning cursive and so for a six-month period all the correspondence was in cursive and she was getting better over time,” Smith said. “I save all the old ones too because I just think they’re fun. I actually have them on my bulletin board in the office.”

Fennoy indicated that as beneficial as the practice of writing the letters is for her students, it’s the receiving of letters that truly makes the program special. 

“It has been exciting to see my students come alive as they anticipate their letter from their pen pal,” said Fennoy. “Days before month end, students are inquiring about their letters. Part of this excitement is due to the fact that kids feel important when they receive mail. It is thrilling to see the room filled with students’ faces sinking into their letters and occasionally, you hear a giggle or one of my students reading a line or two aloud to share the excitement with their peers.”

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What Leadership Means to Me

City Academy strives to develop leadership skills in all of our scholars, including counting on our Upper School students to become leaders in our own community. Our current 6th grade scholars have truly grown to understand that responsibility and exemplify leadership each day. In ELA class, they were asked to respond to the question “What does leadership mean to you?” in an essay, you can read excerpts from their responses below.


Jamaron Bass

A great leader is my father. I looked up to him and  hope to one day be better than him. He teaches me the difference between right and wrong and how to always do the right thing. He cheers me on when I accomplish something very important. He also tells me he is very proud of me. My father inspired me to be just like him, but a  better version of him. He leads me to more than good, but to be amazing because that is what counts.”


RaShae Blanchard

“In my opinion, leadership means showing someone that you are responsible for not only your actions, but others’ actions as well. Because a good leader models, they are responsible for helping, coaching, teaching, but most importantly, listening. I have learned that listening first  is the best way to lead. It shows that you are invested in what is being said and that you actually care.”

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A Sweet Introduction to STEAM

Our sixth grade scholars had a sweet introduction to STEAM this year! Students designed and created their own solar oven, and got to test them out by making s’mores.

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2021 Sixth Grade Graduation | Martin Mathews Award Winner

The Martin L. Mathews Award, given at graduation each year, is named for Martin Mathews, co-founder of Mathews-Dickey Boys’ and Girls’ Club, whose inspiration made City Academy possible. It is awarded to a student or students who exemplify his exceptional leadership and citizenship while demonstrating academic integrity. The 2021 recipients, chosen by City Academy faculty, are Whitney Gross and Tyler Younger. The sixth grade teachers shared these words about each of these amazing scholars when presenting their awards:

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2021 Sixth Grade Graduation Presentations | Whitney Gross

Good morning City Academy, Faculty, Staff, Family and Friends. As most of you may know I am Whitney Gross and I would first like to say thank you. Thank you to everyone who made today possible. At the beginning of the year, we were all filled with uncertainty of whether or not this day would happen, but here we are. So on behalf of the Graduating Class of 2021, we would like to extend our gratitude. We appreciate all that you have done to make this day possible.

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2021 Sixth Grade Graduation Presentations | Promyss Wolfe

Good Morning Everyone! My name is Promyss Wolfe.

Frustration. Anger. Fear. Disappointment. Graduates of 2021, parents, family, and faculty we have all felt this way at some point in our life. Especially this year given we
have been engulfed in a global pandemic. But for me, these mixed emotions have been my life story. That’s the not so good part of my time at City Academy, but just like the lyrics to Kirk Franklin’s song, “Brighter Days” were on the way.

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2021 Sixth Grade Graduation Presentations | Hallie Wilkins

Hello my name is Hallie Wilkins. I am excited for the beginning of something new, yet proud of the accomplishments I’ve made during my time at City Academy. Change. I’m sure we all can attest that at some point, we have all felt that change is sometimes unnecessary. I have not always been a fan of change. It can be intimidating, difficult and often done with such haste, but is so necessary.

While change transpired, change brought growth. There are many levels to change, and I’ve experienced many, ALL which have brought me to new beginnings. Once known as a shy timid girl, I have grown into a boisterous girl not afraid of expressing my thoughts and feelings with words, but as my classmates would probably say, my hands tell it all.

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2021 Sixth Grade Graduation Presentations | Lucas Williams

Good Morning, my name is Lucas Williams. The time is here and I could not be more ecstatic to stand before you today. I know it may not look like it, but in the inside, I feel amazing. I have spent 9 long years here at City Academy and these 9 years have been some of the best years of my life. One thing I possessed during my time is the value of “ common sense”. Common sense isn’t so common, but common sense has gotten me far through the years.

We all know education will take you far, but good ole common sense will surely keep you from making poor choices. For instance, common sense taught me, if Mr. Speed uses the phrase “lil boy”, all while his bald head is dripping with sweat, then we know to stay clear because he’s had enough of our foolishness. Common sense has also taught me that not completing homework could backfire, which could lead to something even worse than you thought and something you will regret later, AND common sense taught me that paying attention in class will prepare you for that time when you may not appear to be paying attention when the teacher calls on you.

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2021 Sixth Grade Graduation Presentations | Trevor Martin

We All Matter Because Humanity Matters

Good morning my name is Trevor Martin. One thing I’ve learned is: humanity matters because we all matter. Upon my admission into City Academy, most of the kids had already developed their own special friendships and I was all alone as a kid entering a year later. That was to be expected because most of them started together in pre-k where friendships had already been established and bonds were formed. I was like the “oddball”. One, because I was the new kid on the block, and two, I was of a different race. It didn’t take long for me to make friends, however, and I have learned so much from my classmates through the years, and they have learned so much from me. Why? Because humanity matters and we all matter.

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2021 Sixth Grade Graduation Presentations | Amir Whalen

Good morning parents, faculty and my fellow classmates. My name is Amir Whalen and as I stand before you, I am relieved that this day has finally arrived. Since the start of my journey in Pre-K, until this point, I have climbed out of my shell of self- doubt and reliance on others and gained independence instead. To be independent has been a personal goal of mine for quite some time and the start of finding myself as a student. This growth of independence started in third grade during our end of year Wax Museum. I was extremely nervous and uneasy, but I was determined to do well, and I did. I was ready and prepared and filled with satisfaction for such an accomplishment.

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