Letters of Hope

December is full receiving gifts, yet how often do we give in return?

This year the Knight of Faith club and English 11 students chose the latter, participating in the Letters of Hope project.

It all started in 2019 when English teacher Marissa Pecora was holding her unit on Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture. Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, died at age 48 due to pancreatic cancer. Prior to resigning from his job, Pausch wrote an autobiography, detailing the lessons he’s learned throughout life.

“I was searching for a nice conclusion to the unit on Randy Pausch,” said English teacher Marissa Pecora. “Lucky enough, I had a student in my English 12 class whose parent had a connection at UPMC Children’s Hospital. I heard about the possibility of writing letters around the holiday season to patients. Soon, my classes began the Letters of Hope project.”

For the past few years, English 11 students in Pecora’s classroom have written letters to patients, sending comforting and positive words. Each student is responsible for writing one letter to an anonymous cancer patient.

“Students follow a rubric and template on what to write,” said Pecora. “Aside from those few resources, students are free to include whatever kind words and warm messages they would like.”

In years past, the feedback from these letters has been well-received.

“If they choose, students can include their email address at the conclusion of their letters. Sometimes, patients reach out and send a nice thank you letter. Overall, there is a greater appreciation for life and everything we have in it.”

Impressed by the project, the Knights of Faith club decided to participate this year as well. Eagerly, co-leader Paxton Stauffer (11) jumped onto the initiative.

“I have been wanting to do something for the wider community for a while,” said Stauffer. “After doing the Letters of Hope project myself in class, I thought it would be a great idea to expand it to Knights of Faith.”

Stauffer is glad he expanded the project to the club.

“I am just glad that we got to play a small part in making more of these letters,” said Stauffer. “I hope the children enjoy them!”