by George J Elbaum
Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo, across the bay from San Francisco, has a high diversity student body of approximately 1,900 students. It is organized into several “schools within a school,” and this is the 6th consecutive year that I have visited and spoken to its Future Academy for Social Change. The audience was a 100+ 10th grade students taking the Facing History based unit taught by teacher Jorja Santillan, who again organized my visit. Based on my previous 5 visits, I knew that the student audience would be enthusiastic and well-prepared, and I was definitely not disappointed – once again I observed how Jorja Santillan’s enthusiasm and energy transfer to her students, whom she prepares and guides through the various aspects of the Holocaust. In her own words: “It’s so important that they understand how complex the Holocaust is through different stories, and how crucial it is that this history be kept alive. I tell my students that now it’s their responsibility to carry it on along with their own histories.”
What made this visit to Arroyo different from the previous 5 was that this time students had also been assigned to create, singly or in small groups, table-top projects reflecting their view of the Holocaust. A dozen of these projects, each requiring artistic creativity, sensitivity and craftmanship, are shown in the photos below.
Each visit to Arroyo reminds me that it is the dedicated, enthusiastic, energetic teachers such as Jorja Santillan who truly teach our next generation, and thus on whom America’s future depends. Thus it is ironic that our public officials, while lauding in speeches and proclamations the critical value of education, do so little to provide America’s teachers a compensation that’s commensurate with this value vs. other employments.
My visit was again arranged by Jack Weinstein of Facing History and Ourselves, who gave his usual excellent introduction plus skillfully answered questions during the Q & A when these went beyond my personal knowledge of the Holocaust.