OZARK, Mo. – Seven years ago, fifth graders Madison Reed and Justin Baker wrote a letter to themselves about their expectations for the future. Now as high school seniors, they received those letters and are having a nostalgic trip down memory lane.
“I honestly was pretty emotional my first time reading the letter because of the maturity I had as a fifth grader,” says Madison Reed. “I loved being able to read my memories, and I laughed about the sass I gave my older self to ensure that I wouldn’t throw this letter away.”
Reed was a student in Jill Widel’s class at North Elementary in fifth grade. Widel says she first started the project 14 years ago when she first began teaching. Widel writes her own note, seals it and holds on to the letters for seven years. Every spring, she mails the letters to her former students.
“I was thinking about all that they wanted out of life and all they would become, and this letter came to my mind as a way to link the two things. Every year I’ve had them write about the same three things: What is your favorite fifth-grade memory? What are your goals for the future? What advice do you want to give your older self?” says Widel.
Justin Baker said in an Ozark press release that he had a lot of fun reading his letter, although he said he “cringed” at parts, realizing he was “not as funny as I thought I was at the time.”
Fifth-grade Baker thought that his future self would get a job at a gas station and work his way up from there.
“My goals have changed because now I am going to college to get my degree in Exercise Science so I can then go to grad school and become a physical therapist,” says Baker.
Widel says she feels like the project allows the students to see how far they have come or to get them back on track.
“I also love that it gives me a connection again to these kids. As an elementary teacher, you often don’t get to see the results of all the work you’ve put into these kids. This allows me to see where they are at in their lives and that makes me happy.” says Widel.
Widel doesn’t always see how students react to the letters, but she often has students surprise her at school to thank her with a hug, or sometimes with a Starbucks drink their fifth-grade self promised her in their letter.