NEWARK, Del. (May 31, 2011) - On Friday May 20, students at Thurgood Elementary School got a special surprise when members of the University of Delaware men's and women's basketball teams stopped by for a visit.

Participating in the Blue Hens Pen Pal Program, Amy Selheimer and Jen Watkins' fifth grade class sent letters back and forth during the school year to the members of the basketball teams.

The visit was not the first time the elementary students and the basketball teams had interacted, as the class was invited to a men's basketball game on Feb. 12 against Colonial Athletic Association rival Hofstra University and the women's game on Feb. 20 against another CAA foe, James Madison University. After both games, the Thurgood Elementary students, as well as all fans in attendance, were invited to a post-game autograph session with each Blue Hen basketball team.

"I was overjoyed with the enthusiasm my students had during this experience. The kids learned about the joy of letter writing, along with creating a relationship with a UD basketball player," said Selheimer of the Blue Hens Pen Pal Program. "Not only did my kids look forward to getting their letters every few weeks, but they also thoroughly enjoyed the visit to a UD basketball game, and finally meeting their pen pals here at school. It was an amazing project - and I think all the students involved, young and old, found it rewarding."

The Blue Hens Pen Pal Program was developed to provide elementary school students with positive role models; increase elementary school students'

motivation for academic success and interest in college; develop and practice writing skills of elementary school students; provide all program participants with a greater understanding and appreciation of diversity; and to create a stronger relationship between the University of Delaware student-athletes and the community.

"The best part was when the players came to our school to see us! I loved seeing Kelvin [McNeil] play at a real game against Hofstra, too.

It was a lot of fun to meet so many UD players!" said Anthony Brown, a fifth grader at Thurgood Elementary.

After a meet-and-greet with the Blue Hen teams, the Thurgood Elementary students were treated to an ice cream social with the Delaware student-athletes, with ice cream provided by the UDairy Creamery, created by the University's College of Agriculture.

"Visiting the school was a great experience. As college student-athletes, we know that we are role models for a lot of young kids, so it was great to interact with the class and finally put a face to the pen pal that we had been exchanging letters with all season,"

said rising senior Meghan McLean.

After the ice cream social, the Delaware student-athletes and Thurgood Elementary students made their way to the gym for some basketball fun, including tips on how to shoot from the Blue Hen players.

"I thought that having a pen pal throughout the season was not only a great experience for the Thurgood Marshall Elementary School students, but for myself and my teammates as well," said Edwin Santiago, who graduated from the University this past Saturday. "Seeing the smiles on the students faces when we finally got to meet them is something that I will never forget."