Natick High School, Natick, MA – March 28, 2023

by George J Elbaum

Natick High School is an urban/suburban public high school serving 1626 students in grades 9–12.  Per Public School Review, it rates in the top 10% in Massachusetts in overall academic performance in standardized test scores (Math and Reading/Language) and top 5% in Graduation Rate. 

 The school also has a strong arts program: in drama it produces two full-length plays each year; it has an award-winning speech and debate team that won the Massachusetts Forensic League State Championship and has had multiple state and national champions; its music program provides students with a rich selection of vocal and instrumental ensembles including Concert Choir and Symphonic Band that have won gold medals in state competition. 

This was my third presentation at Natick High School (also on 4/5/2019 and 5/5/2022), organized again by Social Studies teacher Justin Voldman for students from his Genocide and Human Rights class and from Child Development class of teacher Rebecca Pandolfo, who attended the session with her students and participated actively in the Q & A.  Also present were students from teacher Mackenzie Morgan’s Global Awareness class.  Good preparation of the students was evident by their thoughtful questions during an active Q & A, which is my favorite part of most talks.  

(Attending also was Justin Voldman’s father-in-law, Stephen Katz, who, as serendipity would have it, had been a pharmacist at the Community Hospital in Forest Grove, OR, where I lived and attended high school.)  

My talk was arranged by Jeff Smith of Facing History and Ourselves.  

Notes from Students

Three days after this visit to Natick High School teacher Rebecca Pandolfo emailed me a dozen “Thank you” notes from her students.  My wife Mimi and I read these together and excerpted the statements that resonated with us.  These excerpts are listed below.

  • Throughout the discussion you were able to convey a series of complex and deep emotions that brought a personal view into history.
  • The courage that it took to share these memories and experiences encourages all of us to do more for our community and to use our past as a way to teach others.
  • It was really interesting to hear about how you were inspired to share your story after so many years of keeping the memories inside of your head.
  • It was really interesting to hear how some of the families treated you poorly but how you are still extremely grateful because they saved you.
  • Hearing that you were able to live a life that you found joy in despite the trauma of your youth was very powerful to me, especially because you pursued your lifelong dream of aviation and science.
  • I felt very motivated after hearing you talk.
  • Hearing about how you were able to move on from your past and create such an amazing future for yourself made me feel more optimistic, which is so important to recognize, as it helps create a better life! 🙂
  • One thing I will carry with me for the rest of my life is not worrying about “neither yesterday nor tomorrow”. I really need to listen to this advice and apply it to my routine. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with actions and attitudes from the past and so anxious for the future that I end up not enjoying the present with my family and friends.
  • You have taught us to never give up.

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