Published on August 23, 2021 by Daniel Dodson  
Brookdale Pen Pals

For many years Communication Sciences and Disorders students in Samford University’s School of Health Professions have been engaged in service projects with Brookdale University Park, a senior living facility. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students were unable to continue visiting the facility. In response, they organized a pen pal project that allowed them to continue communicating with residents. 

"This gave the students experience communicating with older individuals who may have communication disorders such as hearing loss and cognitive-communication disorders or visual impairments," said Laura Promer, assistant professor. "This project benefited the students as they learned to adapt their communication styles, and it enriched the lives of the residents during an isolating time."

The project was organized by the Samford University National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (SUNSSLHA) under the guidance of the organization’s service coordinator, Courtney Fish. Brookdale provided envelopes and stamps to students who were interested in sending letters to residents.

"We were trying to think of a project that we could do during the COVID-19 pandemic," Fish said. "I had two major goals that I wanted to accomplish with this project: I wanted to find a project that a lot of Communication Sciences and Disorders students could participate in. I also wanted to brighten the Brookdale residents day with a handwritten letter during a very difficult time."

According to Fish, approximately 70 residents at the facility were available to receive letters, which created many opportunities for Communication Sciences and Disorders students to participate. Students wrote letters to the facility residents during the fall and spring semesters. Letters were also specifically modified for residents who were visually impaired.

"This was a fun and simple project that worked really well during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a great way to continue our relationship with the Brookdale residents even if we did not get to see them," Fish said.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.