Thursday, October 15, 2009

D.C. Baby!

As the culminating event to our first-ever "Never Again" Student Conference, 22 students, three fellow sponsors, and I traveled by Charter bus to Washington, D.C. for an extensive tour of the Unites States Holocaust Memorial Museum, led personally by Irving Roth, Holocaust survivor and author of December 2008 club pick "Bondi's Brother". While at the USHMM, students listened to Estelle Laughlin's story (character in my YA novel, "Dying Twice"--as well as mentor for the work). Many students who have been my editors-in-progress knew the character Bubbe Estelle, so they met not only another Holocaust surivor, but an actual character, too. It was a multi-faceted experience for the club members, and we are all changed as a result.

Also on this trip, the group went to the US Capitol to meet with Congressman Chandler's (KY-D) advisor on international affairs for a discussion/first lobbying experience on the still-unresolved situation in Darfur, Sudan (Africa). Students asked amazingly thoughtful questions that demonstrated the mastery of the goal we'd set together (learning to apply lessons from the Holocaust). They did a great job of putting the pressure on and demanding more Kentucky voice for change in Darfur by the sponsoring or supporting of bills, and putting more pressure on the process by which money changes hands to get the American relief dollars to trustworthy NGOs in Sudan. The students became active citizens speaking out for change, accountability, and peace.

Other than that, students toured the Capitol, Ford's Theater, and the War monuments; stopped at the Reflecting Pool in the National Mall area where they processed their experiences from the day before (USHMM); walked their legs off around the city; and kept it real in the hostel (which is another story entirely!). Students had too much fun to know that these experiences were shaping them as credible, sensible, sympathetic human beings who will lead the fight for social justice in their lifetime.

Oh yeah, one last thing, we totally wrote a rap song. And it rocks. :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The "Never Again" Student Conference

31 students participated in first “Never Again” Conference and got the opportunity to learn more not only about the Holocaust but about recent genocides in Rwanda and Darfur. Taking the challenge left to them by Holocaust survivor and Montgomery County guest, Irving Roth, students examined the six roles of social justice, and chose to make a difference. As a culminating event, students will travel to Washington, D.C. where they will experience the Holocaust Memorial Museum with Irving Roth. They will hear Estelle Laughlin, survivor of Majdanek, as she presents her story for students and their special guets (Irving Roth, monthly book author; directors of the Memorial Library of WWII of NYC). This conference, once it's finished, will give students a chance for leadership, learning, and life-long experiences as they delve into the implications, and the short-comings, of the post-Holocaust mantra, “Never Again.”

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Summer Moo

Readers aren't just wasting their summers! Moo Moo Club members, and member candidates who are trying it out, are meeting twice over the summer (June 20 and July 25) to discuss the summer reads, Unwind by Neal Shusterman and Killing Britney by Sean Olin.

A Reader's Marathon

On May 29th, active Moo Moo Book Club members went on a reader's marathon in Lexington, Kentucky. We stopped at three different places: Jacobsen Park, University of Kentucky library, and Joseph-Beth Booksellars. At each stop, students took their reading material and read, either in groups or alone, for thirty minutes. Not only did they get to enjoy some cool places in Lexington, they got to have fun reading together.

This was our first marathon, and we loved it so much that we're making it annual!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jewish Culture Project

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After a month of studying the Holocaust, (listening to a rabbi speak, decorating doors in facets of Jewish culture, learning Hebrew after school) Moo Moo Book Club members got the experience of a lifetime. When Holocaust survivor and author of November club pick (Bondi's Brother), visited MCHS, Holocaust education came to life. Club members got to shake hands with a man who lived through Aushwitz and who wound up at MCHS to tell his story. Irving Roth visited Montgomery County High School on Dec. 12th of 2008, and although school was canceled for snow, more than 150 people were in attendance for his presentation. His story was harrowing, and his charge to the crowd was heavy. He challenged listeners to act when injustice surfaces. He also challenged listeners to remember that he was there when people try to say that the Holocaust never happened. The crowd was silent as students entered into an agreement with Mr. Roth that they would make the world a better place, and that they would remember the Holocaust.

After his presentation, the group traveled with Irving Roth, and the directors of the Holocaust Educator's Network in New York City, to Ohavay Zion Synagogue in Lexington, Kentucky. There students took part in a service with Irving Roth; many could hear him singing along in Hebrew and watched him to know when to sit and to stand. This interaction changed these students forever.

When the service ended, students learned about Jewish culture as the synagogue's congregation welcomed them into the fellowship hall for Oneg (snacks and fellowship). Students got to see a replica of a typical family's table on Shabbat (the Sabbath day), and they learned to play dreidel from the OZS youth group. It was a wonderful time of breaking cultural barriers and learning to accept and love others.

The evening ended at Rafferty's in Hamburg Pavillion as students took a meal with our esteemed guests. The sounds of laughter and silverware clinking filled the air as students left a mark in history.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

At Virginia Tech with Nikki Giovanni

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On October 27-28, the Moo Moo Book Club traveled to Blacksburg, Virginia. We left the high school at 4:30 a.m. and didn't arrive in Blacksburg until 2 p.m. Needless to say, the bus experience was horrible. We got lost, we went the longest route to begin with, we did our best with using the bathroom on the bus, and finally we made it.

On Monday afternoon, we toured the campus of Virginia Polytechnic and State University. We all agreed that the campus was nothing but beautiful. That night, we toured the Smithfield Historic Plantation. It was so neat because there is no overhead electricity in the house, so we used floor lamps and flashlights. It felt very authentic. Once the tour was over, the students and chaperones walked down the property to an old slave cabin--the summer kitchen--and told ghost stories for an hour.

The best part of the trip was meeting and participating in a writing workshop with New York Times best selling poet, Nikki Giovanni. Students read her book, Blues for all the Changes, and were able to ask her questions both about the book and the writing process. Nikki was inspiring, down-to-earth, hilarious, and oozing with talent. Students were asked to share some of their writing, and if they were too nervous, Nikki read it for them. Hearing her voice resonating and fluctuating with my students' words was astounding. What an awesome experience!

Battle of the Bands

In March of 2008 the Moo Moo Book Club had our first big fundraiser: Battle of the Bands. Putting the spotlight on student bands, we invited the community to our high school to get a taste of student music. With two student bands, one teacher band, one community band, and several solo and duet student acts, the community and student body had an evening of ecclectic jams.

The Moo Moo Book Club worked the door taking tickets, emceeing, keeping order, helping set-up and break-down, etc. They did a fantastic job, and we made a nice little chunk of money to buy books.