Lending A Voice

Unique program gives students a chance to share stories from the Holocaust

“Please keep our stories alive,” pleaded New Hampton eighth-grader A.J. Vetter, near the conclusion of her remarkably moving speech. “Please let these stories be heard.”

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Vetter and six other eighth-grade social studies and literacy students presented speeches about the Holocaust to a packed room at the Chickasaw Events Center on Tuesday. The students had been working on a project-based learning opportunity called “Voices for the Voiceless.” The project is centered around characters, real or created, from that dark era in world history.

Top speeches from the class were selected and then presented in a showcase, which had originally been scheduled to be held at the high school earlier this month, but teacher Jason Rude said the students decided to change the date and make it more available to the public. The students invited administrators, school board members, members of the media, and the public to join them.

Vetter, Hannah Eichenberger, Sanja Djukic, Sheila Nolt, Michaela Schwickerath, Luke Leichtman and Jordan Worple were the seven eighth-graders selected to speak. They delivered speeches that included mothers sharing their stories with their children about the Holocaust, personal accounts of children taken from their homes by the Nazis, and even an account of a Jewish soldier fighting for the Allies in Germany. The speeches were delivered from the point of view of the characters they were about.

“As you can see, these are not your typical speeches filled with facts and figures and dates,” Rude said to the audience. “These are the emotions and the personal stories of those who were there.”

The students investigated first-hand accounts from survivors, documents from the Nuremberg trials, newspaper articles, photos from the time period, and many other primary sources to develop the speeches. One even used a personal narrative from a grandparent.

“They are giving voices to those who aren’t able to tell their story,” said Rude, who added that the research seemed to make a big impact on the students. “For three straight days, it was dead silence in the classroom as these kids learned these stories.”

After the showcase, students took questions from the audience about the project and the presentation.


For more of this article, see Friday's Tribune.

New Hampton Tribune

10 North Chestnut Ave
New Hampton, IA 50659
Phone: (641) 394-2111
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