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Holocaust Hero Project Wins Top Accolade

We became witnesses ... the award-winning students with their educators

In their award-winning documentary, 7th and 8th grade students at the Walworth Barbour American International School in Even Yehuda, Israel, state: "We became witnesses." An elevated social consciousness is just one of many positive outcomes from their project, "Confronting Adversity through Secret Newspapers in Terezin," for which the students won the Lowell Milken Center (LMC) for Unsung Heroes' $10,000 Discovery Award grand prize. Under the leadership of AIS educators Diane Vahab and Marina Brodsky, the winning students include 7th graders Emma Halimi and Assaf Shrim, and 8th graders Yeun June Jang, Gabriel Mendiuk, and Eduard Strebl.

"At AIS, we emphasize authentic learning opportunities that engage students in meaningful work," says Assistant Superintendent Emily Sargent Beasley. "This process encouraged our students to step outside themselves and into the life of a young hero."

The students' project tells the story of Holocaust survivor, Pavel Weiner, who spent his childhood in the Czech Republic's Terezin ghetto and kept a diary of his experiences, which later became a book. 

Pavel Weiner’s book

Even as Weiner watched most of his family and friends leave on transports and never return – most perishing in concentration camps—his diary entries, poems and drawings expressed messages of hope for a better future along with an optimistic belief in humanity. According to the students, "His writings reflect his character, attitude, patriotism, mature way of dealing with aggression, hope for the future and the victory of the truth."

Weiner managed to survive the Holocaust and leave behind a legacy for young people today; a record on how to use the lessons of history to repair the world with hope. Vahab says that the project taught her students how to work together as a team, resolve conflicts, communicate their ideas, conduct primary research and ultimately see that they can effect positive change in the world.

"The students experienced history through stories of real people," says Vahab. "They learned how to connect the past with the present and to take this newfound knowledge to serve as agents of change and global citizens responsible for their future."

The 2014 Discovery Award projects represent students from around the globe who worked together to discover and share the inspiring stories of unsung heroes. Says LMC Executive Norm Conard, "Each of these student projects celebrates the universal qualities of courage, compassion and conviction. The passion demonstrated by the students is truly inspiring."

Sonia Lowman is from the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes. The article is edited by Mike Downs, AIS Superintendent. 



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