Elk Grove High School students recently had the opportunity to join secondary schools across the nation for an interactive videoconference with Holocaust survivor, human rights activist and Academy Award winner Gerda Weissmann Klein. As part of her Stand Up, Speak Out, Lend a Hand project, Klein shared her story of survival and resilience with students in Bob LeVin’s 11th grade English class and Erin Goldman’s U.S. History class.
During the hour-long videoconference, Klein talked about her experiences under the Nazi regime during World War II and the final death march to a camp in Czechoslovakia. Rather than dwell on the horrors that she witnessed and experienced under six years of Nazi rule, she instead focused her presentation on “the love, the caring and the friendships that gave one hope” during that time. Following a question-and-answer session, she then challenged the students to make a difference in their own communities by developing projects that will improve the quality of life for people of all races, religions, economic conditions and physical or mental incapacities.
The students will continue their connection with Klein through the Stand Up, Speak Out wiki, where they will post updates on their service learning projects. In March, they will gather again online. This time the students will be the main speakers as they connect to share their individual stories in a culminating celebration of their projects.
“We need to have more programs like the one we just participated in. Videoconferencing with survivors and witnesses could really go a long way in promoting more tolerance,” says 11th grader Bryce Lowe. Classmate Jenni Elslip adds, “Being able to hear the stories first-hand, seeing the raw emotion, you almost feel as if you’re there. It gives a student a whole new perspective on a historical issue.”
Videoconferencing connectivity at Elk Grove High School was made possible by EGUSD’s Technology Service’s ongoing partnerships with BESTNet and the California K12 High Speed Network, a state program that provides network connectivity, internet services, teaching, learning application and videoconferencing coordination and support for California’s K-12 community.