Hugs and high-fives were exchanged, as were choruses of “I’ll see you again soon!”

To most, this might sound like lifelong friends catching up, but in fact it was the first meet-up of the year between second grade pen pals from St. Clare and Our Lady of the Lake.

This year marks the 11th year of this tradition between the Southwest Portland and Lake Oswego schools.

Each fall, St. Clare and Our Lady of the Lake second grade teachers Jessica Montgomery (St. Clare) and Barb Eisner (Our Lady of the Lake) pair their students to write letters to one another throughout the year. Students get to know their pen pals through correspondence while also practicing spelling, penmanship, letter formatting and storytelling abilities.

The classes meet in person twice during their second grade year, once at each school, to spend time with their new friends while participating in games, crafts, snacks and free playtime. The two-hour visits aren’t ever enough time spent with their new playmates.

This program is a special treat for these students; they look forward to sending and receiving letters throughout the school year, according to school staff. For many, the bonds continue beyond the second grade classrooms as students participate in CYO sports and other clubs and activities.

Students already are anticipating their next visit this spring. Until then, they will continue to put pen to paper, expanding their communities and fostering new friendships.