Somerset’s SPIFF program celebrates 30 years
Somerset’s SPIFF program celebrates 30 years of friendships
Posted on 11/20/2018
Photo: A SPIFF Pal with her second grade buddy

Somerset Elementary School is celebrating 30 years of intergenerational friendships this year. The school annually coordinates a Special Pals in Fun Friendships or SPIFF program to partner second grade students with older adults from the community. The SPIFF program started at Somerset in the 1988-1989 school year and is responsible for creating nearly 2,000 friendships over the past three decades.

On November 16, Somerset staff began the 2018-2019 SPIFF program with a kick-off event at the school. In a morning ceremony, students met for the first time with their SPIFF Pal, as they are referred to, and sang songs. 

Photo: A SPIFF Pal gets to know her second grade buddyThe event’s special guest, Minnesota Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius, congratulated the school on the longevity of the program and the positive impact it has had on so many students throughout the years. She also highlighted SPIFF as an example of social-emotional learning, which is an important part of the school experience for all children.

The idea for SPIFF came from longtime Somerset teacher Alex Messicci, who teaches second grade and continues to coordinate the program.  

Over the course of the coming year, the adults will be invited back to Somerset for fun get-togethers with their second grade friends, including reading, art projects and more. They will also be pen pals between meet-ups. In May, the students and their Pals will come together for a final celebration of the year.

Photo: Dorothy Machado and Tyler TDuring the kick-off event in November, current Somerset Principal Libby Huettl introduced Tyler Tuhy, who is now a student at Friendly Hills Middle School. Tyler attended the SPIFF event to surprise his former Pal, Dorothy Machado. Dorothy was at the event to meet her newest second grade buddy when Tyler arrived with flowers to show his appreciation for their friendship, which still continues to this day.

While some friendships, like Tyler and Dorothy’s, carry on for many years, some simply create a lasting memory of second grade says Principal Huettl, who was once herself a student at Somerset.

“I was apart of the SPIFF program in 1991, so to see that it is still going strong is really special,” she said. “I still remember my Pal and how we had such a great time. I’m so glad this program is here for a new generation of students.”

Photo: Alex Messicci, Libby Huettl, Peter Olson-Skog and Brenda Cassellius
Second grade teacher and SPIFF coordinator Alex Messicci, Principal Libby Huettl, Superintendent Peter Olson-Skog and Minnesota Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius.