MIT’s Aaron Weinberger and his KeyPal Get Acquainted
Picture this scene: 22 fifth and sixth graders in a circle facing outward, surrounded
by an equal number of adults facing inward, with the circles gently moving in
opposite directions to allow for brief conversation. Was it a dance routine or
unusual ceremony? Not at all! It was an icebreaker, carefully designed to enable
students from the Kennedy-Longfellow School to meet their MIT KeyPals for the
first time in person.
Following the fun icebreaker, three MIT KeyPals talked about their jobs at the
university. Each presentation allowed students to hear about a different sector –
facilities management, sustainability and administration. Then, over pizza and salad,
students and KeyPals shared conversation and got to know each other better in
preparation for the yearlong communication experience ahead.
Now in its 18th year, CSV’s KeyPal program focuses on building literacy and career
awareness and pairs all 58 fifth and sixth graders from the school with an equal
number of adults from MIT, Draper Laboratory and IBM for a yearlong mentoring
experience. The program concentrates heavily on student writing: interviews and
biographies of each KeyPal volunteer, book reviews, and computer technology via e-
mail and PowerPoint creation. Four face-to-face visits take place during the year as
well: two at the workplace and two additional times for breakfast (at the Kennedy-
Longfellow, with parents also invited) and lunch (at MIT).
According to Anya Alexandra Bear, KeyPal site coordinator at MIT, the program has been the
perfect vehicle for volunteers to get involved in the community, and especially with
school-age kids. “The time commitment is key,” she says. “It’s not overwhelming, the
site visits are structured, and it’s a unique opportunity for MIT to work with IBM
and Draper.” KeyPal volunteers represent quite a range of career choices as well,
from resource development and human resources to administration.
In collaboration with its two corporate partners, MIT hosts the annual KeyPal
luncheon each spring. This final face-to-face visit also allows time for students to
share their Year-in-Review PowerPoint presentations with their corporate mentors
using laptop computers provided by the School Department. In addition, MIT
generously funds the BookShare project, allowing for each adult/student pair to
read and collaborate on a review of the same chapter book.
CSV thanks its KeyPal corporate partners and volunteers for their caring and
commitment to the students of Cambridge! Please join us for the March 15 CSV
Now! event honoring KeyPal program partners – Draper Laboratory, IBM and the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For more information and to register, go to: