by George J Elbaum
Thornton High School is a public, alternative school with current attendance of 124 students, primarily in grades 11-12, and its continuation program is designed to provide the opportunity for students to earn academic credits and meet the requirements for a high school diploma. In a broader sense, Thornton’s mission is to build an educational community which would reintegrate at-promise students into educational, social and community activities and to develop feelings of self-worth, tolerance and community awareness, thus becoming productive and responsible citizens. To foster community involvement, for example, students must complete at least 75 hours of community service and earn elective credits. Students are referred to Thornton for a variety of reasons; each has his or her own story on what obstacle(s) got in the way of staying on credit track to graduate on time. With collaboration between the students themselves, families, staff, and community, the majority thrive at Thornton and earn enough credits to graduate on time. Several even end up graduating early, helped by smaller class sizes, increased teacher-student-family contact, individualized instruction, and the ability to earn credit in a variety of ways.
This was my third talk at Thornton, but the first one since Covid-19 constrained personal interaction, so unfortunately this talk was via Zoom. As before, this talk was also arranged and organized by English teacher Fernanda Morales for 11th and 12th grade students. Before starting I had a very pleasant chat with math teacher Dan Nevo, whose father was also born in Poland in 1938, as I was, and after the talk I received a very nice send-off from teacher Morales and her students (photo below). I look forward to returning to Thornton next year in person, not via Zoom.
Letters from students
Several weeks after my presentation I received letters sent by teacher Fernanda Morales from her students. My wife Mimi and I read these letters together after last night’s dinner, highlighted statements or phrases that resonated with us, and I’ll now excerpt these and add them to the Thornton post on my website http://www.neitheryesterdays.com. I look forward to visiting Thornton again next year in person rather than via Zoom
- What you shared is significant because it shows how ignorance led to catastrophic events, so spreading awareness about this topic may prevent another tragic event.
- After you shared your story I noticed the little things in my life and now cherish them more than before.
- What was most memorable to me was the message that no matter the situation, life threatening or not, you can still be a strong and great person.
- Hearing your story and Elie Weisel’s book gave me a much better understanding of the Holocaust because both showed us the living conditions, how the Nazis treated people, and how heartless they were to Jews.
- Everything that you shared with us was important because it showed how cruel the whole thing was. I could feel how difficult it was.
- I am grateful for what you were teaching us.
- My favorite part was hearing about your time spent at different houses. I connected with that the most because my great grandmother hid the same was. It was memorable because my grandfather and his side of the family are Jewish.
- Your story is important because we must learn to recognize the signs of future atrocities, and your story is one part of that solution.
- My favorite part was that you continued to move past everything that happened in your life and became successful.
- I somewhat connected with having a rough time in the past when I was younger and learned from it. I became someone better.
- We must stand together to go against the evil out there, that is what I take away from your (and Elie Wiesel’s) stories.