by George J Elbaum
Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo, across the bay from San Francisco, has a high diversity student body of approximately 1,800 students. It is organized into several “schools within a school,” and this is the 7th consecutive year that I have visited and spoken. This year the audience was approximately 250 10th grade students studying the Holocaust based unit taught by teachers Kaeden Peters, Jill Jacobs, Angela Kerubo, Jess Vaughn, and Jorja Santillan, who again organized my visit. Based on my previous visits, I knew that the student audience would be enthusiastic and well-prepared, and once again I observed how Jorja Santillan’s enthusiasm and energy transfer to her students, whom she prepares and guides through the history and ramifications 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.”
During my last visit to Arroyo in June 2017 I saw and was impressed by the creativity, sensitivity and effort that the students applied in building the table-top memorials of the Holocaust. Several students told me enthusiastically about their creations and I look forward to receiving from them photos when the projects are completed.
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. It’s both sad and 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 to our country.
My visit was again arranged by Jack Weinstein of Facing History and Ourselves, who gave his usual excellent introduction and the importance of hearing this history from those who lived through it.
After the Q&A and the 3 dozen photos (below), two students told me that as part of the Holocaust project each of them had written a poem inspired by it and they wanted to share these with me. I thanked them for the copies they gave me and told them that I would include it on my website.
Red Flower by Renad Banana
A red flower trying to rescue a little daisy by feeding her seeds. Rescuing her from death, murdered and bloody. A red flower trying her hardest to secretly feed her little daisy. Surviving from all the death around them. To not be burned. To not be killed. To not be murdered. Having a positive mood that tomorrow will be better. A red flower with her little daisy.
The Time Shall Pass by Malanie Doi
They are all many leaves but one tree For we suffer different things as individuals We are all together united and strong Against a common enemy that never shall be forgotten
The moment has come to seize the day To fight for freedom, liberty, and justice With dignity, pride, and hope Of a better future to come to the day
The reality was revealed Everything he possesses that was once part of him Suffered the destruction with no dignity left, no humanity But the will to gain the initiation to be known once again is stronger than ever