A dozen graduating students from East Three Secondary School are hoping to take a solemn tour of Holocaust Memorial Sites next June and have launched a fundraising campaign to get there.
Every year, English 30-1 students learn about the Holocaust through literature, reading Night by Elie Wiesel and watching Schindler’s List. But for the students of the class of 2020, the reality of what happened had a really powerful impact on the students.
“People I know are connected to it, so it will be a real life-changing experience for us. It’s not pretty, but we want to learn about it,” said student Parker Carpenter. “It didn’t seem like it was real, but people actually to go through that. It was really hard to hear, you wouldn’t want that to happen to your worst enemy.
“It’s so sad and really important to learn about.”
Now, he and his classmates are working to save up the $70,000 needed to get themselves and two chaperones to Europe for a 10-day educational tour unlike any other.
East Three English teacher Gene Jenks, who would be one of the chaperones, said he has never seen a group of students so motivated to expand on a learning subject. When the students pressed to find a way to pay their respects to the victims of the Holocaust, the idea of seeing the sites first hand came up and the group decided to go for it.
He noted the students were well aware of what they were getting into, though he admitted he was having his own existential crisis in how the group was going to get from point A to point B.
“What we see here is an opportunity for a real authentic learning experience for these kids,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of sticks in the fire, we’ve written letters asking for sponsorships, we’re trying to do as much fundraising as we can. We have a very committed group of kids and a very committed group of parents.
“When I’m full of anxiety, I’ve had parents say, ‘Hey we can do this, we’ve got six more months.’ So we’re doing what we can.”
If all goes according to plan, at the end of June the group will fly out from Whitehorse to Berlin, Germany. There, the group will visit the Holocaust Memorial before taking a train to Poland to begin visiting major historical sites. First off, the Warsaw Ghettos, then Krakow before moving on to Auschwitz. The tour will then move on to Prague to visit more memorials before flying back to Canada.
“We felt like we should pay our respects to the people who went into the camps and didn’t make it,” said student Alexis Lucas. “People should have awareness about indifference. There’s people out there who don’t receive much help.”
Students are planning to do bottle drives, concessions stands and a number of fundraiser events to help cover their costs. A GoFundMe has also been set up to help the students achieve their goal. Anyone interested in helping out can visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/central-europe-and-the-holocaust-student-tour?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cf+share-flow-1.