Santa Fe Catholic High School

Santa Fe Catholic High School, Lakeland, FL    Celebrating Over 50 Years of Educational Excellence



Must Read! One Book Summer Reading Article

Wednesday, August 16, 2017 · News, Parents, Students, Uncategorized

This is the third year that the school community has read a common book for our summer reading. This year, we read I Will Always Write Back:  How One Letter Changed Two Lives written by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda.  I Will Always Write Back, a national best seller, was highly recommended by both teachers and students for its captivating story and inspirational characters.  It is a true story of an   all-American girl and a boy from Zimbabwe and the letter that changed both of their lives forever.  “In this compelling dual memoir, Caitlin and Martin recount how they became best friends–and better people–through their long-distance exchange. Their story will inspire you to look beyond your own life and wonder about the world at large and your place in it” (


In preparation for the first day of school our entire faculty, led by Amanda Gaspary, worked together during our pre-service week to create interdisciplinary activities based on the book. Our goal was to create a memorable way for students to think about the concepts from the book and build school community in a fun and non-traditional format.

The activities included indoor soccer trivia with the social studies department, using coordinate planes to locate places from the book with the math department, and a getting to know you activity where students answered questions and passed them to someone they could not see until the big reveal facilitated by the religion department. 

                  Social Studies


For the science activity, the students conducted an experiment related to purifying dirty water. Groups were provided one purifying material such as coffee filter, cotton balls, paper towels, or a cup with a pin. At the end of the experiment, the groups discussed how global location and economic conditions impact a person’s ability to obtain clean water and consequentially impact health   and other factors. These themes were central to the book as Caitlin lived in the US and did not have to worry about clean water or obtaining water. However, Martin and his family often struggled with the availability of water and, at various times, the purity of the water.

The English department took inspiration from I Will Always Write Back and began corresponding with pen pals at schools in Africa and India, though an organization called Outreach Education. Students wrote letters of introduction that will be sent to our sister schools. We hope to continue communicating throughout the school year.  The letters will serve as reading content for these schools as they are in impoverished areas and cannot afford textbooks. 

In addition to the activities, the school skyped with Caitlin Alifirenka, one of the main characters and authors of the book. The experiences she spoke about gave the students greater insight into the characters in the book and what it is like to live in an impoverished country and how one person can make a difference. Overall, it was a successful day. Students were challenged and pushed outside of their comfort zones. They got to know each other and made some new friends, hopefully making a lot of memories in the process.