Best-selling author visits RCMS

Lavanya Meduri, Riya Ghate, and Rania Shah

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Author Caitlin Alifirenka, 33, visited Rachel Carson Middle School on Oct. 11 to speak to students about her national best seller, “I Will Always Write Back,” which was RCMS’s “One Book” for the 2018-2019 school year.

The students had to read the book over the summer and do an assignment on the book. The story was about Alifirenka and Martin Ganda, and how they grew up knowing each other, although they were 12,849 km apart.

When she first arrived, she told the students how she met Ganda. She went to school in Pennsylvania where she was offered a pen pal in a foreign country. She was drawn to the country Zimbabwe because she liked the sound of it. She began to exchange letters with Ganda, who lived in Zimbabwe with his family. She had no idea the extent to which that correspondence would change both of their lives.

Alifirenka said, “When I got that letter made out of trash, my bubble was shattered.”

She told the students about the time when she first sent money to Ganda. To help him out, she mailed a $20 bill. That money paid for two weeks’ worth groceries and enabled Ganda to return to school. That $20 bill meant the world to him.

“One small act of kindness changed his life,” she said.

Alifirenka mentioned kindness multiple times in her speech. This was inspiring for students and teachers alike.

“I liked how she focused on kindness, and when she said that you never really know what someone is going through,” said Megan Carr, math teacher for Legacy.

Alifirenka’s small contribution helped Ganda achieve his dream of going to college in the U.S. In 2007, he graduated from Villanova University in Pennsylvania on a full-tuition scholarship. He later joined Goldman Sachs in New York with the support of Alifirenka and her family.

The speech made a moving impact on students, who clapped and stomped their feet to honor their friendship. Many students say that it changed how they thought about their daily lives, and that they wanted to know more about the subject.

“It was really touching to see what is actually happening in Zimbabwe, and to see that the story was actually real,” said Richa Bhandary, a seventh grader on the Majestics Team.

Not only did Alifirenka talk about it, she showed a video and some pictures to the students. This was the favorite part of the assembly for many students.

“I was really excited,” said Natasha Sanghvi, an eighth grader on the Dolphins team. “My favorite part was when she showed us the video of the first time she met Martin in person because it was really sweet.”

Many students liked Alifirenka’s presentation because it was engaging and heart-touching. It spread an important message to the students of RCMS.

In the words of Alifirenka, “Kindness is contagious.”

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Best-selling author visits RCMS