An Unlikely Friendship
One teacher’s lasting friendship with a convicted felon and her involvement in his transformation from prisoner to poet
by Loretta Sheng and Zack Kousnetz, The Paly Voice
When Palo Alto High School teacher Jeanne Loh was a fourth grader living in Huntington Beach, Calif., then-16-year-old Oakland resident Eddy Zheng was committing armed robbery and kidnapping. Thirteen years after he was sentenced to seven-years-to-life, the two met in San Quentin State Prison where Loh was volunteering as a teacher’s assistant.
So began what would be an eight-year friendship that would see the two share hundreds of letters and her volunteering as the transcriber and caretaker of Zheng’s online blog. During this time, Zheng would emerge as one of the Bay Area’s most celebrated reformed convicts. A poet, published author and supporter of prisoners’ rights, Zheng converted himself — in part with Loh’s help — from a troubled teenage immigrant into a dedicated and selfless contributor to society.
The more Loh got to know Zheng, the more she believed in the strength of this transformation. “If you think about your own suffering there’s always someone else who’s suffered more than you,” Loh says.
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