by George J Elbaum
Boston Green Academy (BGA) is an ‘in-district’ Charter School that is proudly part of the Boston Public Schools. Founded in 2011 by a committed group of Boston educators and community members, BGA is Boston’s only school focused on sustainability and preparing the next generation of diverse leaders for college and green careers.
Asked by the Boston Public Schools to turn around a struggling high school, BGA successfully ‘re-started’ Odyssey High School in South Boston and in three years became the most improved high school in the Boston Public Schools and one of the most improved state-wide. In 2014, BGA began an expansion to include middle grades, starting with a 6th grade and in 2017 BGA achieved its goal of becoming a full school for grades 6-12 serving approximately 500 students from every neighborhood and background in Boston. BGA continues to be one of the most improved and innovative schools in the Boston Public Schools, serving a highly diverse student body with “90% Students of Color, 31% Students with Disabilities, 15% English Language Learners, 100% Amazing Human Beings!”
To fulfill the “Green” in its name, BGA prepares all its students to be leaders in environmental stewardship and activism, to live their lives responsibly and sustainably, and to be prepared to succeed in the growing green sector. The “Green” theme is woven into all courses through BGA’s project-based learning, an Environmental Science Career Technical Education (CTE) Program open to all students, and a Project Week experiential learning program every year, including international service learning trip for high school students. BGA’s graduation requirements exceed Boston Public Schools standards, including a required senior six-week internship for all seniors. My presentation to 55 11th graders (and some 8th graders) was organized by BGA Humanities teacher Lucia Mandelbaum and it was arranged by Jeff Smith, Resource Speaker Coordinator, Facing History and Ourselves
Several days after my talk at BGA I received from teacher Lucia Mandelbaum a compilation of student reflections from all of her classes (students with disabilities, English language learners, inclusion, AP cohort). It was a part of her “Thank You” to everyone who helped organize this event at BGA. As with student letters & notes received from other schools, I now excerpted statements that resonated with me from these Student Reflections and added these excerpts to BGA’s webpost on my website www.neitheryesterdays.com.
- Pretty much the whole entire experience stayed with me. I automatically send a message to my old middle school teacher after the experience telling him about it. He said it was a great experience for me and it actually inspired him to start writing again.
- The excitement of talking to George Elbaum, his talk was so interesting. He has amazing stories, they’re not all good stories, but they’re all very interesting. He could turn any question into a good story, when he didn’t have an answer for the question he answered with something that related to it.
- It was cool hearing from someone who is still here from a traumatizing past and speaking about it. It’s very brave to do that. When he was talking about his mom and how she passed, that really hit home, and I noticed when he was talking about her, that he was about to cry, and it was very sad.
- Something that stuck with me is when he said that he felt like an American, not a Jew.
- He was truly an inspiration, a living example of no excuses, a fighter, a survivor, and even the luckiest man on earth. His story is crazy and hard to even imagine the risks he and his mother took all their life.
- I would like to speak with him again and ask him more questions personally, like what kept him with hope all those years. The things he told us yesterday are not even believable and make a kid like me think I could really do anything.
- The thing that has stayed with me is the profound effect that the Holocaust had on George’s entire character.
- I thought it was inspirational, especially at the end when George talked about the girl who contemplated suicide.
- What stayed with me during the Elbaum interview was how lucky he had been through that whole ordeal.
- I have a lot of respect for Elbaum because of the things he has gone through. He answered all of my questions.
- He made me want to keep going even though I have hard times, because he went through worse than me and still kept going.
- What stayed with me was how strong his mother was through the process.
- What stayed with me the most was the sugar cube story he told. It was really unique and cool for him to share. It was one of the few highs of such a sad experience. Also how he changed a girl’s mind about planning to kill herself. We never really know how much of an impact we have on someone’s life.
- Yesterday’s talk with George Elbaum was pretty inspiring and interesting because he is history itself and we get to know things that happened to him first hand basically. What has stayed with me is the experience he had in the shed, when the dog had to be choked so it wouldn’t have barked for their safety. What I want to know more about are other precautions that he had to take to be safe.
- It was terrible as a child to see the events that went on and experience the sacrifices that his mother went through to keep him safe and provide him a fresh start in life.
- What has stayed with me is his voice when he was talking, you could hear it in his voice about the pain he was feeling.
- Yesterday’s talk with George Elbaum is going to be memorable. Something that surprised me was how much luck he had, like God was always on his side