North Putnam students visit dark page of history

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Trevor Mitchener says he believes studying the atrocities of the Holocaust was worth it.

"I learned that people don't need to be judged by their outside, they need to be judged by their inside," the North Putnam Middle School seventh-grader said Monday evening prior to the school's Holocaust Reflections Program.

In fact, Mitchener is a firm believer in the grade's motto for this year's program, "Never Again."

"We don't want this to happen again," Mitchener said.

For the sixth-straight year, North Putnam Middle School seventh-grade students presented to the public its Holocaust Reflection Program on Monday.

"At the time (when the program was started), hate groups were becoming more and more prominent in the county," North Putnam Middle School social studies teacher Ron Price said.

On Monday, parents of the students packed into the high school auditorium for the program.

This year, Price challenged his students to write a three-page essay, putting themselves in the shoes of Holocaust survivors. Price said the students were to imagine they were survivors and to write the essay with "empathy."

"They got into it really well," he said.

Twenty-two students read aloud quotes that Price picked from the essays as part of Monday's program.

"They came at it with a lot of passion," Price said of his students. "They have good hearts."

The presentation began with a welcome and dedication prior to readings of Steven Spielberg and Edward R. Murrow.

A powerpoint presentation in the program showed emotional slides depicting the anguish suffered by those who lived through the Holocaust.

Following more readings, student Nellie Asher portrayed Anne Frank writing in her diary before Jody Reuter, Rebecca Kelly and Jennifer Ashmore sang "I will remember you."

Student Cameron Howe then read aloud a quote from British Prime Minister Tony Blair before the 22 seventh-graders read quotes from their essays.

Following the readings, the NPMS seventh-grade choir sang, "Angels Among Us," and "Clouds."

Following more readings, the program concluded with several students locking arms with lit candles.

Seventh-grader Justin Zurawski said the Holocaust was studied for nearly one month.

"We learned that it wasn't a hoax," Zurawski said.

Both students said the seventh-graders worked on the powerpoint presentation for about one month and about one week on the displays that were exhibited throughout the lobby, including newspaper clips, student-made displays, displays from former classes, and separate areas dedicated to Holocaust survivors, including former Putnam County resident Mike Vogel.

Vogel died in 2000, but used to come to the school to speak about his memories of the Holocaust, even sharing with the students the number he was given while spending time in a concentration camp, 65316.

Students also were asked to wear black to the program. Ashmore designed a T-shirt specifically for the program that cost $6.

The event had to be rescheduled after inclement weather forced a cancellation in January.

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