The post below is the fourth in our series of submissions from the Long Beach Writers, a group of students in Literacy Workshop classes given by Devon Day at Wilson High School. The big story behind the posts is the students raising funds to go to Inwood, West Virginia to meet their pen pals attending Musselman High School, and experience first-hand the similarities and differences in culture between Inwood and Long Beach.

While our first three Long Beach Writers columns were from Wilson students, this week our post is an exchange between pen pals; Arlene is a junior at Musselman High School in Inman, West Virginia and her pen pal is Stephen at Wilson High in Long Beach. When she handed me these hand written letters, Devon Day told me that prior to his letter to Arlene below, Stephen had never written more than a few sentences.  The positive impact of the Literacy Workshop at Wilson combined with the pen pal program with the students in West Virginia has opened up many students at both high schools.  The students are teaching each other through their letters about trust, openness, writing and understanding—values important for success later in life. At the request of the students their names have been changed.



May 1, 2008


Musselman High School

Inman, West Virginia


Dear Stephen Jameson,


Mr.  Spencer asked that in our letters we tell you a story about ourselves so that you could get to know us better.  I really couldn’t think of what to write at first, but I decided to just tell you about me and some of the things I’ve been through.

I was born in Knoxville, TN.  A couple of months before my fifth birthday my parents files for divorce. They both decided they wanted full custody of my brother and I and filed child abuse charges against one another.  My mom claimed by dad had abused my brother Phillip.  My dad claimed my mom had abused me.

My brother and I were taken from our home and placed into a foster care for a month while the custody battle raged between my father and my mother.  In the end my mom’s parents, my grandparents, were given custody of us.  Both of my parents were granted visitation rights, but only with supervised visits.

Eventually, after several months, my grandparents returned full custody over to my mom.  I spent my fifth birthday in the seat of a moving van; my mom decided to move back home to Maryland.  For several years I lived only five minutes away from my father and never knew it.  I only saw him whenever he decided to drop in.  At school, at home, at day care.  It was so rare that he came to see my brother and I that once after getting my haircut he walked right past without even noticing me.

When I was eight my mom was re-married. I never even knew she was dating anyone, let alone getting married.  I met my step-father the week of the wedding; so did my mom’s family.  Needless to say no one was very happy about my mother’s big news, they had only been dating a month after meeting online and they were getting married.

That following summer I moved in with my dad.  He and his girlfriend now had a one year old son, and I had a new little brother.  I lived with him until I was fourteen before I had had enough of being treated like a punching bag.  I moved back in with my mother and now I live here in West Virginia.  I’ve been here for almost two years and I haven’t spoken with or seen my father since the day I left.


Living with my mom is better in some ways, but at times I still feel as though I’m unwanted.  For the longest time I believed there was something wrong with me.  I mean why else was it so hard for anyone to love me.  But, now I’m in a relationship with a great guy.  And although my family is not the best my friends are.  I don’t know how I would have made it through without their help.


            Your Friend,

            Arlene Davis



May 21, 2008

Wilson High School

Long Beach, CA


            Dear Arlene Davis,

That is a sad story about your life it really got my attention and I really like it.  The reason is that I can relate towards your pain, about how sometimes you feel unwanted, because sometimes I say to my mother that I want to move out one day.  So one day she says she’s tired of my attitude and she asked me if I wanted to live somewhere else.  The later that night she calls the house and apologized to me and says “I shouldn’t make that kind of decision all of a sudden.”  So she said, “sorry” again and hung up the phone.  I can also relate towards you and your father, because I can’t even see mine either, because well…he died a couple of years ago and I do miss him all the time and it’s cool to see that someone else knows the pain that I’m going through too.  Anyways I’ve gotta go now it’s lunch…so later.


            Your Friend,

            Stephen Jameson           




Please help send Stephen to meet his pen pal Arlene and also send the other Long Beach Writers to West Virginia to meet their pen pals!  To make a donation please send a check to or contact me:


Long Beach Writers

c/o Long Beach Education Foundation

1515 Hughes Way

Long Beach, CA 90810


Memo: LB Writers/WVa




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