Tahoe students confront ‘intolerance’
March 25, 2009
LAKE TAHOE ” After just one field trip, students in a South Shore class are more tolerant of each other, and those around them.
Seventeen South Tahoe Middle School students traveled to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles on March 6. They raised money for the trip through community donations and a raffle in just an eight-week span.
Tisha Siems, STMS teacher, said the class had read “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank, so students wanted to visit the museum’s Holocaust exhibit. The museum hosts exhibits for visitors to experience history and confront intolerance in society today.
Before they started the three-hour tour, students were given a photo passport card of a child who was a part of the Holocaust. During the tour, students learned about human rights and the history of the event. At the end, they found out if the person on their passport survived the Holocaust ” most of them did not.
“It was sad to learn they didn’t make it,” said Destanee Milligan, STMS student.
Adrian Santana, STMS student, was shocked some of the Nazis threw Jewish babies out windows during the Holocaust. The babies didn’t do anything wrong, he added.
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“They were innocent,” Santana said.
All the students said the 10-hour drive there and back was worth it to go to the museum. Most said they told families and friends about the experience.
Siems has continued to incorporate the trip into her lesson plans, and it helps with classroom relationships too.
“We started off (the school year) fighting with each other, but now we don’t fight anymore,” Milligan said.
The students also saw how the exhibit applied to some issues at school.
At the middle school there are divisions between students because of the array of cliques that have formed over the years. Out of all the factions, there are two dominant groups: The red and the blue.
In an effort to stop students from dividing into different groups, Siems decided the class color should be purple, because it’s red and blue mixed together.
She plans to order purple shirts with a class logo for students to wear to promote the idea.
In addition, after the trip Siems arranged for two high school students to talk with the middle school students about their trip and the need to keep tolerance in their lives, especially when dealing with distinct groups in school.
One of the high-schoolers, Alex Ortega, said the students shouldn’t continue the red and blue division, and just be themselves.
Ortega said he has a friend who has a Mohawk and dresses differently then he does, but they’re still friends. If he had followed a group, they probably wouldn’t have become friends since they looked different.
“You don’t have to pick a side,” Ortega said. “You can talk to whoever you want and be yourself.”
The second high school student, Jorge Romero, who is a part of the Unity Art Project, said people sometimes call him names and judge him because he’s Latino, but he has to ignore them.
“It makes you a stronger person because you’re not letting them get in your head,” Romero said.
People at school and around town will judge others by the way they dress, Romero said, but that’s not an excuse to let intolerance prevail.
“People always think I’m going to steal something in a store, but I can’t let that bother me,” Romero said.
Both students encouraged the middle school students to continue practicing tolerance, and not to stop. If all the middle school students were tolerant, then it would filter up to the high school.
“If you can stop it here, then the power really comes from you guys,” Romero said.