Lupton students place in Jacksonville State's Holocaust writing contest

By NICOLE SMITH, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 5/3/16

Lupton Jr. High School students were recently recognized for their creative writings to commemorate the Holocaust.

Lupton language arts teacher Megan Bolton gave her 8th grade students an assignment to read Elie Wiesel’s …

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Lupton students place in Jacksonville State's Holocaust writing contest

Posted

Lupton Jr. High School students were recently recognized for their creative writings to commemorate the Holocaust.

Lupton language arts teacher Megan Bolton gave her 8th grade students an assignment to read Elie Wiesel’s literary classic “Night,” which details the author’s survival in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust. Instead of writing a typical essay about the book, Bolton wanted to give her students a chance to explore their creativity.

“They’re used to doing just regular essays where they would write a historical perspective or facts that they have learned. ... We did a lot of self-reflection — a lot of trying to put ourselves in those people’s places — taking our lifestyles today and trying to mesh them into what it would look like during that time and the Holocaust,” Bolton said, adding she wanted her students “to understand the human emotion behind it and not just the facts.”

She assigned all her students to write either a short story or poem about the Holocaust, and she chose the top five poems and short stories to submit to Jacksonville State University’s Remembering The Holocaust writing contest.

Alayna Ivie placed first in the short story division, while Josh Gardner placed first in the poetry division and Austin Gilliland placed second in the short story division.

Bolton’s students who placed were honored at Jacksonville State University, and Ivie and Gardner read excerpts from their work during the program.

“It was one of the best moments of my teaching career,” Bolton said happily, as she reflected on their special day of recognition. “I emphasize in my class, especially with writing, that it’s about revision and putting the work into it, and those three students most certainly did. They took every critique that I had and every idea that they had, and they continued working until they produced that finished product.”

In Gilliland’s short story, he wrote from the perspective of a young boy who traveled to a German concentration camp and was separated from his mom.

“We were on the train for about a week before we came to our first camp. When they unloaded us from the trains, they talked without yelling and without guns in our face. When my mom got separated from Dad and me, I was heartbroken. It was weird but reassuring at the same time because Dad was calm and silent,” Gilliland wrote. “I listened to him because I knew mom was a strong woman and could take care of herself. I didn’t know at the time, but that was the last time I would ever see her.”

Gardner explored a Holocaust victim’s connection with nature as a way to escape the surrounding terror.

“Sometimes I think I will be free again.

I will wrap myself in the wind;

I will put grass between my teeth;

I will roll in the dirt.

I will live like a sunbeam bright and wild.

Sometimes I think this will happen.

Then I open my eyes,” he wrote.

Ivie explores the feelings of a young girl minutes before her death.

“We are ordered to remove all personal belongings and line up in front of a towering building. ... I see a man stoking a fire, shoving the wood into the side of the building, the same building we will be walking into in just a moment,” she wrote. “A horrible, overwhelming feeling fills my body. I can’t breathe. I know I will suffocate. I will suffocate on my fear. I will suffocate on the smoke, the smoke from the wood. We are not walking to a shower. We are walking to our death. We will be burned, turned into ashes, by the fire stoked with the wood my father chopped to keep us alive.”

The Holocaust Days of Remembrance week is ongoing and will run through May 9, in conjunction with Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) on Thursday, according to the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center (BHEC).

Lupton students will commemorate the week by implementing the Unto Every Person There is a Name memorial program into each morning’s character education during morning announcements. BHEC states on their website that roughly 1.5 million children were killed during the Holocaust, and each morning this week at Lupton — and in many places across the country — a child’s name will be read and remembered.

“The people who put it together, their hope is that it will raise awareness to the fact that it wasn’t just a number like six million who died, but that each of those numbers had a name and especially with the children, each of those children were people who had dreams, who had hopes, who didn’t get to live out their futures like our students are being able to do,” Bolton said.

Bolton said she hopes Lupton students will be able to find even more ways in the coming years to remember the lives lost during the Holocaust.

“I feel, as a teacher, it’s important for them not to just get the facts that are on the page, but to also learn things like empathy and being able to understand the people around them,” she said.