Parkersburg South HS students continue Letters from Santa program

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 7:12 PM EST
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - A holiday tradition is continuing at Parkersburg South.

Parkersburg South students are once again filling the shoes of Santa to answer letters to Old Saint Nick for Christmas.

“It started about five years ago,” says english teacher, Justin McKowan. “I decided to have a little project for my kids, my classes, to really let them learn the art of letter writing while giving back to the community and giving back to the kids.”

Area kids can write a letter to Santa and either they, or their parents, can send it to Parkersburg South high school.

At the school a student will write them back as Santa Claus.

Teachers McKowan and Katie Nestor who run the program say they get somewhere between five hundred to seven hundred fifty letters each year from all over the country.

“We see on social media, especially parents saying, ‘Oh my gosh, little Johnny go their letter and they loved it! This is so fun and we’re going to do this again next year.” And tagging their friends. And so, that’s the thing,” says Nestor. “We love getting these letters just as much as they love receiving the letters. So, keep them coming in for sure.”

The teachers say the letters range from what the children want for Christmas, to more personable and conversational messages for Santa.

“I would say it’s a combination of both. The writing practice is obviously academic and that’s great. But there’s a little bit more and it goes a little bit deeper than that I feel,” says Nestor. “We want them to have that sense of community and that sense of connection. And kind of the ‘golden rule.’ Treat others the way you want to be treated, and you feel good by doing good. And that’s what we kind of want to pass on to these kids that are writing the letters.”

McKowan and Nestor say it’s more than just a lesson in writing, it also helps others.

McKowan says, “And there’s something magical about writing a letter. We live in a world where we’re inundated with text messages and short TikToks and emails. But to actually type out a letter to a specific person is something that goes a little above and beyond. And it just feels good to do.”

McKowan and Nestor say they use Mr. Rogers as an example of how to talk to the kids and help them out.

“We had to have some principle and basis for ‘Where do we look to for our answers?’ And making those equilateral,” says Nestor. “So, I think that that’s part of it too, and who better than a role model like Fred Rogers who was just a wonderful ray of sunshine.”

The activity has also reached further than the English department, as the teachers have gotten other teachers in the school and others outside of Parkersburg South to help with the letter writing.

To send a letter to PSHS if you are interested you must send it to the school’s address, 1511 Blizzard Drive, Parkersburg, W.Va. 26101 and leave a return address and name of the writer. Or you can email a picture of the handwritten letter to Nestor. You must notify Mrs. Nestor, her email is There are no guarantees for letters postmarked after Dec. 3rd.

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