EH essential skills students taking part in Great Mail Race

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The essential skills class at Eastern Hancock High School is taking part in the Great Mail Race. The kids are trying to collect mail from each state in the USA. Teacher Jeremy Fewell explains what is behind the project for his five essential skills students. Monday, Jan. 30, 2023.

EASTERN HANCOCK — If all goes as planned, the large map of the United States on the wall of the essential skills class at Eastern Hancock High School will soon be filled with all kinds of different colors.

The colors will indicate the students in the class have received a correspondence from a particular state.

The teaching lesson is called the Great Mail Race and the idea is for the five students in the classroom to learn about how the mail system works and a little about the states where the mail comes from.

Jeremy Fewell is the essential skills teacher for Eastern Hancock and noted while only two states are filled in for now, they expect to receive more letters from other classrooms around the nation soon, and they’re hoping to get mail from other people throughout the USA any day.

“The joy of doing sometimes is the thing,” Fewell said.

The whole thing started when the school received a letter initially from students at West Clermont High School in Ohio, an essential skills classroom like their’s indicating they were participating in the Great Mail Race, allowing kids to learn about different regions of the country.

Fewell decided to let his kids take part in the event, and last week they sent out 50 letters to 50 different schools across the United States.

“The goal is to hear back from all 50,” Fewell said. “Unexpected to us, we posted about it last week and it’s gone viral.”

Two of the students, Preston Ballou and Michael Annarino, told the Daily Reporter that they liked waiting on the letters and learning about the states. They were mostly looking forward to adding colors to the map to show off where the letters have come from.

Preston was excited because one of first two letters received was from Wisconsin, a place he visited over the holidays.

“They have a Ponderosa there,” he said. “We got two new letters today.”

Fewell planned to open two new letters first thing Tuesday morning, reading them aloud to his class.

Many former alumni and people from around the United States have gotten wind of the Great Mail Race and have decided to take part and plan to send the kids letters as well.

“At the end of the day, the goal is to learn about the states, but we can also learn about the mail system, so we didn’t think it had to be a letter from a school, so why not let everyone get involved,” Fewell said.

The class’s social media site on Facebook, Eastern Hancock Essential HS Skills, has received nearly 200 comments from people wanting to get involved and help the kids learn.

Joshua Livingston posted, “A former EHHS student here now living in California — would love to help if you need a letter from here.”

Another former student wrote, “Webb Dillard, class of 92, I’ll send one from the Conch Republic, we really don’t claim the rest of Florida here in The Keys.”

While others put, “Arkansas has got you covered.” Someone from the lone star state wrote, “Texas is on the way!”

Fewell noted the kids in the classroom have done their part, reaching out to all 50 states with letters and now it’s time to sit back and wait and see what comes their way.

“This is a great opportunity for our students to get lots of letters from different sectors,” Fewell said.

Once the class gets a letter, Fewell will read it to his kids and then talk about the state that it came from, including some of the famous people who came from the state, some of the key industries in the state as well as what makes the state famous.

For Fewell, it’s all about teaching the students life skills — real knowledge they can then put to use as they learn each day new ways to take steps toward living an independent life.

“As more and more letters come in, I know the kids are going to think this is really cool,” Fewell said. “It’s the joy through doing.”

Fewell, who has been teaching at the school for two years now, takes his students on numerous field trips each year to expose the essential skills students to every-day life with the hope the kids will pick up some tips they can then use in the future. That’s the idea behind the Great Mail Race event getting letters from all 50 states.

“I feel like letting the kids get out there and see it and live is so helpful and letting them do the Great Mail Race, seeing the mail and learning about the states is living life in real time,” Fewell said.