by George J Elbaum
Mercer Island High School (MIHS) has a total enrollment of 1521 students including Crest Learning Center, an alternative program largely focused on community-based learning in smaller classes. US News Best Schools ranks MIHS as #8 in Washington and #527 in its National Rankings based on its students’ impressive performance: Mathematics Proficiency 86% vs. 40% state average, Reading Proficiency 95% vs. 70% state average, and College Readiness Index Rank #11 in WA. MIHS enrollment’s demographics are: White 70%, Asian 20%, Hispanic 4%, all other 6%; and 3% of students are economically disadvantaged.
Today’s MIHS program follows last week’s (2-24-2021), which involved student-organized presentations by Holocaust speakers, most of them Holocaust survivors, for small groups of its 9th and 10th graders. Both last week and today, these presentations were held during the school’s supplemental morning “Islander Hour” outside of standard class time. While many of the students had some background education in the Holocaust, the school’s overarching goal was to give the underclassmen an experience that will help them understand why the Holocaust is important to teach, and why it is not a topic for jokes. By tasking students to organize the events, MIHS gave the students valuable experience that will undoubtedly be useful in their adult careers, and that included resolving the technical difficulties that were encountered in starting the events. I want to commend students Bella Hartman, supported by Samantha Wampold, in managing the difficulties unflappably and relying on teachers John Stafford, Ed Puchalla, and Creighton Laughary for support when it became necessary.
My presentation to approximately 25 10th grade students was arranged by Julia Thompson, Education Program Manager of the Holocaust Center for Humanity.