Students across three grades in the Mattituck School District read the book “I Will Always Write Back” by Caitlin Alifirenka, Martin Ganda and Liz Welch. The students in sixth, seventh and eighth grade, then got the chance to discuss the book with two of the authors — all via Skype.
“The opportunity to speak to two of the authors of the book made a lasting impression on both the students and the adults,” Cutchogue East Elementary principal Kathy Devine said.
Ms. Welch and Ms. Alifirenka both Skyped in to interact with the students.
The book is a true story about two long-distance penpals, Ms. Alifirenka and Mr. Ganda, who lived in Zimbabwe at the time. As their letters continued and their friendship grew, Ms. Alifirenka learned how different their lives were, and began to send funds and resources to Mr. Ganda so he could ultimately complete school.
Mr. Ganda ended up attending Villanova University on a full scholarship. He now lives in New York City and is the godfather of one of Ms. Alifirenka’s daughters.
Ms. Welch, a part-time Orient resident, helped put the story together by combining the letters with interviews of the two friends.
Ms. Devine said the students asked questions about how Ms. Alifirenka felt when she learned about Mr. Ganda’s struggles during the Skype interview in March. The students in all grades then got together for a pizza lunch to get to know one another better.
“The book tells a powerful story about how one girl changed the life of one boy thousands of miles away,” Ms. Devine said. “Hearing the story from the person herself made a greater impact on the students, showing them that one person can make a difference and that kindness counts.”
Photo caption: The authors Skyped into the classroom to discuss their book with Mattituck-Cutchogue students. (Credit: Mattituck-Cutchogue School District)