Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Inspiration to Give Hope to Teens

"One Life May Change the World"

~ Sarah J. Maas

Within the walls of our classroom, intolerance is not acceptable.  Our history and reading programs are filled with lessons to help inspire empathy within our students.  Yet, somehow when we look out our windows our country is still filled with so much racism and hate.  This year the students in my classroom were lucky enough to have a visit from someone whose story changed their lives.  New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Sarah J. Maas was gracious enough to bring her grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, to visit our school. It was an experience we will never forget.

Many of the students had fallen in love with the worlds and characters Maas has created in her Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses Series.  Her heroines find strength from friendships, from within themselves, from bonds, and even sometimes (one of my favorites) within the pages of books.  They must battle evil and monsters, save princes and high lords, and overcome seemingly impossible obstacles.  We love to read the stories she so incredibly weaves and puts onto the pages of her books.  Unfortunately for many of us, at some point in our lives we will have obstacles to overcome and battles to fight in our own real world.

Sarah's grandmother Camilla Maas' story is that of a real life heroine.  As with Sarah’s fictionalized characters, her grandmother has experienced a world with monsters to battle, and real obstacles to overcome.  In class, our students read and learn about many historical and current events that depict horrific violations to human rights.  This year, we were grateful to have Camilla in our classroom to tell us about her battles, her journey, and how the kindness and courage of everyday people can change the life of another.  Here's how her inspiration and time with us impacted one of my eighth graders...

Dear Mrs. Camilla,
 After reading Sarah J. Maas’ blog and hearing your presentation on your life during the Holocaust, I saw how much this historical period affected your life. You lost your family, your brother (for a time), friends and family when you were taken away from them and sent to live with a foster family. The difficulty it must have put on your life must have been tremendous. I can't imagine what it would be like to live in fear of capture and death every day, and not even being with my own brother and family. You are very strong and very brave, and you should feel very proud of living through that time period and being able to share your story with kids like me, at schools like mine. It takes a lot to live through something like the Holocaust, but it takes even more to share your story of survival with humans who maybe be uneducated about it.
You persevered through so much in your life. From even the time before you were taken from your family. As a small child you were affected by the the Nazi rise of power. Kids today will never have to deal with being banned from their local swimming pool or even being stoned so badly they are knocked unconscious. These are things you had to deal with at such a young age, just because you were a certain religion. The terror you must have been in is unimaginable, as a young child being picked apart left and right because of a choice she had no input in making must have made life so stressful and confusing. It is a miracle that you overcame all diversity to live through this terrible time.

You've had a pretty amazing life. Definitely one you can share with the world and have pride of claiming it’s your own. Sadly, your story isn't as popular as Anne Frank’s and or Ellie Wiesel. But, I feel as though your story is just as important or even more. The story of a girl from Frankfurt, Germany, who was stripped of her family at the age of only 6 or 7. The horrors it must have caused. You're story, Mrs. Camilla, has a huge affect on the world. Your story shows that the Holocaust affected even children of the toddler age. Kids like you, who were younger or a teenager, were also affected greatly. It says in Sarah’s blog post that you were the age of 10 when you traveled across the ocean from Lisbon, Portugal to the United States, then when you saw the first view of the Statue of Liberty. Also in Sarah's blog, your granddaughter stated that before you even boarded the boat, you had made up the decision of waiting for your brother. That in itself, took a lot of bravery and courage because, what if the people couldn't find your brother? You could've possibly lost your spot on the boat. Then you might not have escaped the Nazi reign. In conclusion, you proved to yourself and to the Nazis that that you were a strong and courageous woman at the age of 10, you didn't have to fight in a war, kill or use any violence, all you did was to strive to escape to the US.

All in all, you have lived through so much throughout your life. From surviving the Holocaust to seeing the iPhone 7 being released. To remember the vivid details of your childhood so perfectly that you can share them with people around the US is phenomenal. It takes a brave and forgiving heart to do that. To forgive the Nazis is something that not a lot of people can do, those people forced you away from your family, forced you to live with a foster family for most of your childhood. All we can do is say, thank you. Thank you for expressing your story with us and showing us the kindness human beings have.
Ben C

Watch her video here as Camilla shares her story with us at WMS... https://youtu.be/4Iv-shuD5Bo 

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