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Caitlin Alifirenka is co-author of the YA dual memoir, I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives. Along with her pen pal, Martin Ganda, and Journalist, Liz Welch. I Will Always Write Back is a New York Times and Indie bestseller, it has won Junior Library Guild Awards, was part of Amazon’s Big Spring Book Selection, and received starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.
Caitlin grew up in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, where her parents still reside. She currently resides outside of Philadelphia, PA with her husband, Dzmitry, and their children and works as a Registered Nurse in the Emergency Department.
What to Expect from a School Visit
Do you remember having an assembly and being excited to do something different? I like to make assembly’s exciting for kids, keep them interested and make them think. As the students enter the auditorium Spice Up your Life by Spice Girls is playing as the file into their seats. This usually gets the students excited about my presentation. It’s different than their typical assembly.
I start my PowerPoint presentation with a brief background of my life before Martin, and his life before me. It’s my hope that this opens their minds to our differences but most importantly, to our similarities. I want to convey to the students that parts of the world may be different, but not better or worse, than our lives here. I love this part because I’m able to watch as the students (from all backgrounds) begin to realize just how fortunate they are to have grown up with so much. Through my presentation I show them that I was just like them. And I was able to look beyond myself and do my best to help those less fortunate. For me, that realization was that my best friend was starving and he needed my help. By the end of my presentation, I want the students to want to be kind.
I finish up my presentation with the original video of Martin’s arrival to the United States. At this point, there are usually many tears as well as cheering. I follow up my presentation with a Q&A session with the students, sign books, and take pictures with the students. If one student from each visit can perform a random act of kindness, then we’ve made the world a better place.
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