Sister School Program

Opportunity Education connects students in over 1,000 schools around the world, fostering cultural understanding through personal pen-pal relationships.

Student pen-pal artwork reads "Tanzania, under the same sun" and "Nebraska, under the same sun."

Starting an Educational Journey with a Valuable Global Perspective

Through sharing and receiving personal letters, videos, pictures, stories, poems, and more, students (and teachers, too) can learn about distant countries and cultures. This powerful global perspective can add depth to their education and influence their understanding of the world for years to come.

A collage of three images. In the first one, young children sit in a small classroom doing work. In the second image, a young girl sits at a desk writing on a piece of paper. In the third image, a row of young boys sit at a long desk working.
A class of students proudly display their pen pal letters.

A Fun Way to Learn

Students write about their daily activities and prepare packages, while they await their own new packages of letters from thousands of miles across the globe. Letter composition and storytelling satisfy a wide range of cross-curricular standards, and the program is a natural fit within units of many language arts, social studies, history, and world cultures courses.

Miles Apart, Connected at Heart

Watch the Sister School Program’s work enrich lives around the world.


Miles Apart But Connected at the Heart

St. Patrick’s Catholic School in the US and St. Mary’s Primary School in Uganda originally began a pen pal relationship in order to learn more about each others’ cultures. But as the correspondence went on, St. Patrick’s took a greater interest in the well-being of St. Mary’s students.

Benefits of Letter Writing

A Massachusetts social studies teacher signs her class up to become pen pals with students in South Africa, in order to bring relevance to the curriculum. Interest generated from the pen pals results in the US consulate in Cape Town, South Africa hosting a video conference for all the students involved.

Sister School letters were received today from Ralston Middle School. Business at the school almost came to a standstill as pupils opened the letters. Simply put, it was joy, joy and joy!

— Mr. Andrews, Rosmini Pre & Primary School
Lushoto, Tanzania

Today the 3rd grade wrote their letters to their pen pals. They are so excited and loved receiving and writing letters. "I have never had a pen pal!" “I can't believe I am writing a real letter to a friend in Africa!" "I love their drawings!" This is such a rich, authentic, meaningful experience.

— Judy Sorenson, Maxey Elementary School
Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

"I shall show my letter to my parents and friends at home and then I shall display the letter on the wall in our living room. I have a friend in America!" shouted Shey Brandon, a student of Class 5.

— Marius Berinyys, Head Teacher Catholic Nursery and Primary School Ndu
Kumbo, Cameroon

Thank you so much for safely returning the Tanzanian mural to us! The children were so excited... we were thrilled to place our hands upon the handprints of students from so far away and to see their beautiful smiling faces in the photographs... They analyzed every photo down to the last detail. The mural and photos provided a wonderful springboard for discussion and great way to introduce writing to Uhuru Peak students again… I think all of us felt one heartbeat closer through this project.

— Michelle Komacek, 5th Grade Teacher Menallen Elementary
Uniontown, Pennsylvania, USA

I wanted to let you know that the letters arrived in Swampscott, MA. The students were thrilled. We were especially happy about the timing because we will be video conferencing with the South African school again this year for the fifth time! The U.S. Consulate & Salem State University help us to accomplish this. It is a very exciting day. Opportunity Education's help in keeping this letter writing going is so important and I want to extend a huge thank you from Swampscott. Have a great day!

— Judy Mckenzie, Swampscott Middle School
Swampscott, Massachusetts, USA

About the Program

The Sister School Program was established by Opportunity Education Foundation CEO Joe Ricketts in 2008 to promote cultural understanding across the globe. Through the program, schools in North America, Africa, Asia, and Europe were paired together as pen pals. At the current time, the Sister School Program is not enrolling additional schools. We may reopen the program to new schools at a future time. In the meantime, please explore our Quest Forward Learning Program, which serves secondary school students in Tanzania and the USA, and will extend to additional countries soon.

Joe Ricketts visiting a school in Tanzania