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High School Sophomores are Moved by Survivor Testimony from Pacific World War II
San Francisco, CA-March 20, 2017-The Jewish Family and Children Service's 15th Annual Day of Learning took place this past Sunday, March 19th. Over 700 students and faculty from 120 different schools came together to participate in the days programs.
"Inspiring, informative, eye-opening, and encouraging," were just a handful of the words used by teens to sum up their experience with this year's program. Although a few of those words may seem out of place when talking about tragedy, they begin to fit when one learns that the theme of the day was "Take a Stand." Students can often find history lessons featuring genocide and war to be filled with horrific photos and events. Sometimes they can be left with a sense of shock and helplessness. Fortunately, given the current political climate in America, the Day of Learning facilitators decided to give the students the next steps after learning about these tragic parts of history.
One workshop in particular, focused efforts on giving students some specific non-violent tools for resisting, and preventing history from repeating itself. Pacific Atrocities Education hosted a workshop for this year's Day of Learning titled: "Tools of Resistance: Women Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors of World War II in the Pacific." Many students shared their surprise and disappointment with America's lack of curriculum teaching this part of history.
After workshops, students welcomed survivors from a variety of backgrounds into the classroom for a speaking session open to questions and answers between students and survivors. Expanding on the brief history touched on during their lecture, Pacific Atrocities Education welcomed Jean B. Chan to give students a personal account from her childhood. Chan survived in China with her family during the Japanese invasion of her small village in Taishan. One student, brought to tears by Chan's heart wrenching story, asked which tool she believed would be most effective in sharing this part of history. The answer to this question, Chan did not know, but she was happy to discuss the options with the class.
One sure take away from Day of Learning 2017, is that students are awake as ever and eager to learn from the lessons that history has to teach. Teachers and other educators can also conclude that it's not enough to lecture about history, students need directions on next steps.
Pacific Atrocities Education is continuing their efforts to bring the often forgotten history of Pacific World War II to American audiences. Nicole Dahlstrom, Director of Outreach for the San Francisco based non-profit, stated that "the experience introducing students to the topic of Pacific World War II was both challenging and rewarding. It's a vast and underserved narrative, but the feedback we've been getting is our fuel to keep the program running." Nicole represented PAE at the workshop this year, she continues with, "If we can get one student interested in learning more about this part of history, then I know we are making a difference.”
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Growing up as a child in Hong Kong, I heard much about the terrors that my grandparents on both sides of the family had endured under the rule of the Japanese during their invasions in Pacific East Asia. While these tales horrified me as a child, it sparked an interest in me and set me on the path of getting my bachelor’s degree in history at the University of San Francisco. I was so intrigued by the subject that by the time I was fourteen, I had read Iris Chang’s award winning book, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II, which was a gift from my grandfather, who insisted that this portion of history can never be forgotten.
As I grew up, I soon realize that most people in the world, even my peers in Hong Kong, were either indifferent or ignorant of the subject. Whilst I was disappointed by this realization, it continues provide me with the motivation and drive to spread the knowledge of this largely forgotten past; as the age-old expression goes: those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.
Nicole Dahlstrom is a non-profit marketing specialist with a history of coordinating marketing efforts for non-profit start-ups. She began her career while still in college when she interned at a local non-profit start-up called Spread the Care. After receiving a B.A. in Marketing, Nicole spent a year as an employment specialist with the national volunteer program, AmeriCorps. During her term of service, she aided a diverse set of clients with anything from learning to speak English to writing a business plan. Since finishing her term of service in September of 2014, Nicole has pursued a freelance writing career while studying online marketing for non-profits. She currently works as the Development Coordinator for the growing San Francisco based non-profit, Pacific Atrocities Education.