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Student-driven lesson more sharply focuses historical lens

SILER CITY — Time and again referring to Chatham School of Science & Engineering (CSSE) students as ‘young faces’ because of their potential to learn from history, Holocaust survivor Zev Harel regaled them with his story of perseverance.

CSSE sophomore Jordan Glover developed that lesson plan, the idea for the lecture born in Anna Blackwell’s classroom at the early college, where educators have established a standard of actualizing students’ voices. 

“Jordan first approached me with the idea to invite a Holocaust survivor to speak to our school shortly after our unit on World War II in our World History class last year, when he was in ninth grade,” Blackwell said. “I encouraged him to look more into it and thought it would be a great opportunity for the 2019-2020 school year, especially since tenth-grade students read the Holocaust memoir “Night,” by Elie Wiesel, as part of the English II curriculum. I think I was able to provide Jordan with the background information on the Holocaust that sparked his interest, but, really, I do have to give Jordan the credit on making the event happen. He created this goal himself and successfully achieved it, and all of us at CSSE are super thankful that he did.” 

Harel turned back the pages of his life to the chapter about a Nazi volunteer imploring him to claim he was born in 1927 instead of his actual birth year of 1930. Harel said he took the advice, explained that’s how he stayed alive, because Jewish prisoners 15 and younger, as well as those 50 and older, were loaded into rail cars for deportation to death camps. 

Glover said he couldn’t imagine facing something like that. 

“I can’t. I don’t think I would have survived,” Glover said. 

But that’s the thing, Harel suggested — life is about surviving. He went on to earn a doctoral degree and is professor emeritus at the Cleveland State University School of Social Work. Harel told the students that he is living proof that they can overcome life’s challenges.

Chatham County Schools educators meet Holocaust survivor Zev Harel.

Chatham County Schools educators meet Holocaust survivor Zev Harel.

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Published Oct. 18, 2019