Wyandot students honored after reflections on Holocaust

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published June 19, 2019

 Students from Wyandot Middle School pose June 12 at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills. The students were being honored as part of the third annual Kappy Family Anne Frank Art & Writing Competition. From left in the back row are Abriana Juarez-Ortiz, Florencia Medina, Mary Kunnummyalil and Lauren Sorbie. From left in the front are Carmen Maruri and Alayna Belyue.

Students from Wyandot Middle School pose June 12 at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills. The students were being honored as part of the third annual Kappy Family Anne Frank Art & Writing Competition. From left in the back row are Abriana Juarez-Ortiz, Florencia Medina, Mary Kunnummyalil and Lauren Sorbie. From left in the front are Carmen Maruri and Alayna Belyue.

Photo provided by Leann French

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — When it comes to advancing humanity, numerous Wyandot Middle School students put their feelings into words — and were recognized for it.

Six students — five seventh graders and one eighth grader — were honored as part of the Kappy Family Anne Frank Art & Writing Competition, sponsored by the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills. The annual competition “seeks to empower and inspire today’s students to lead our world to a better future.”

In the past two years, the center has received more than 400 entries from more than 40 schools in Macomb and Oakland counties. In creative fields that include painting, drawing, photography, poetry, fiction and nonfiction writing, the goal is for students to apply lessons learned from the Holocaust in their own lives, “by seizing opportunities to step up, take action and make our world a better place.”

Entries were accepted between Jan. 2 and March 8, with divisions split between seventh and eighth grade students, and those in high school. First-place winners received $300, second-place winners received $200, third-place winners received $100 and honorable mention recipients received $25. Teachers of first-place winners received a $200 Amazon gift card.

This is the first year Wyandot has participated in the competition. Of the nine students who submitted entries, six placed in different categories.

The seventh graders honored were Carmen Maruri, who won first place for fiction; Florencia Medina, who won second place for drawing; Lauren Sorbie, who won third place for photography; Abriana Juarez-Ortiz, who won seventh place for painting; and Mary Kunnummyalil, who received an honorable mention for poetry. Eighth grader Alayna Belyue received a third-place honor for poetry.

The students were honored June 12 at the Holocaust Memorial Center.

“We are pleased that the connection between Wyandot students and the Holocaust Memorial Center continues through the art and writing competition,” said Leann French, who teaches English language arts and drama to seventh graders. “Their writing and artwork are inspirational, engaging and demonstrate they understand that, no matter their age, they play a role in changing the world for the better.

French continued, “These students proudly represent the Chippewa Valley School District, but more importantly, they represent their peer group. Their success in this competition demonstrates middle school students understand the importance of tolerance. It also shows their appreciation of diversity and a desire to do their part to make the world better for all of us.”

Both French and eighth grade language arts teacher Cheryle Kahl said that up until a few years ago, students’ curriculum involved reading Holocaust-themed novels and then visiting the Holocaust Memorial Center for a close and personal perspective.

“We did this for nearly 30 years, and had the privilege of listening to many survivors speak about their experiences,” Kahl said. “Our student demographic does not often include students with religious connection to the Holocaust, and as an educator, I feel the lessons learned from this atrocity are essential for all students.”

In Kahl’s current curriculum, her students read excerpts from Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl.”

She said the Holocaust Memorial Center, which contains hands-on exhibits and an excess of media education opportunities for visitors, is a good place for reflections, which tend to often be “rich with emotion and new knowledge.”

She recalled one memorable speaker and Holocaust survivor who told of how she never discussed her experiences with her family until she had adult children. That woman previously hid in a box in a German farmer’s barn.

“(The survivor) warned students that the seed of hate that grew into the Holocaust is the same seed that grows into gangs and bullies and school shooters,” Kahl said. “She advised them to avoid associating with anyone or any group that is based on hating another.

“Our students always have come away from these experiences with a renewed feeling of empathy and acceptance. Years later, students still talk to me about their experiences listening to survivors.”