Raegyn Oliver

Class of 2021: With Paper and Ink, Raegyn Oliver Reaches Out Across Generations
Posted on 05/17/2021
Raegyn Oliver
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut everyone in at home day after day, Raegyn Oliver didn’t just miss her friends and classmates. She missed her great-grandmother Ruby, too.

Ruby couldn’t have visitors at her nursing home, which made it difficult for Raegyn to keep in touch the way she wanted. But a light bulb went off in the midst of her sadness: “a little pen pal exchange” between teens and nursing home residents. Raegyn Oliver

“The idea kind of blossomed from there,” said Raegyn, a senior at Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Magnet High School.

Her inspiration grew into Friends on Ink, a volunteer organization that now consists of about 30 high school and college students in Tennessee and North Carolina who regularly send letters to people who are four or five times their age.

And these are old-school, ink-on-paper letters – not emails, not texts, not TikTok videos.

“All the members prefer pen and paper, because it’s easier to decorate,” Raegyn said. “You can make it really special for them. We like to make it aesthetically pleasing.”

Each Friends on Ink member is expected to write at least one letter every two weeks to one senior citizen. Members who have time to do more are allowed to choose a second pen pal.

“There are so many lessons that can be learned from individuals in all generations,” the organization’s website says. “By setting the technology down and writing letters to people from all walks of life, we are creating a more connected society and a less lonely one as well.”

Raegyn, an artist, has considered growing Friends on Ink’s reach nationally. She also has created encouraging cards for women in rehabilitation facilities.

Last winter she designed the MLK holiday card with an original piece called “True Jubilee.” Angela McShepard-Ray, MLK’s principal, said Raegyn had noted her desire to “reflect on (Dr. Martin Luther King’s) dream while conveying how diversity, brotherhood, and sisterhood are the foundations of MLK Academic Magnet.”

“Academically focused, civic minded, creative, and a self-described ‘perfectionist,’ Raegyn is exactly the type of student we hope to develop at MLK,” McShepard-Ray said. “A gifted artist, she skillfully intertwines art with many of her academic and co-curricular endeavors.”

Raegyn, who will graduate in the top 5 percent of her class, plans to attend Lipscomb University this fall to study psychology and studio art.
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Students,Class of 2021