Meyersdale Area High School seniors traveled to Washington D.C. for a special tour of the Holocaust Memorial Museum on November 13. While at the museum, students had an opportunity to listen to the story of a Holocaust survivor, hearing first-hand the tremendous challenges faced by those persecuted for their beliefs and heritage. The trip was made possible through The Blanche Beerman Museum Fund, created by the late Abe Beerman, of Johnstown.

The legacy of a Johnstown businessman has been to enrich the lives of local youth and provide an experience for youth to learn and grow. The Blanche Beerman Museum Fund, created by the late Abe Beerman, provides funding to take area students to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. Meyersdale Area High School students enjoyed this opportunity November 13.

The trip was impactful and, according to English teacher Jessica Deakins, an experience that provided an invaluable message to the 70 seniors at MAHS and the District’s exchange student, Pablo Quinto Martinez.

“From an instructor’s viewpoint, the experience is quite difficult emotionally because I typically teach an entire unit on Holocaust history and literature before we go, which is very difficult subject matter. Then, the exhibits at the museum are heart wrenching. No matter how many times my students and I visit the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, I’m still bowled over by its power and impact,” Deakins explained. “Truthfully, I do not know if any subject is more important to teach because the message learned is vital to all of humanity: in order to prevent history from repeating itself, one can never be a bystander to evil, whether it be in the form of bullying, prejudice, or hatred. Our focus is the need to act with compassion and understanding and the need to embrace, not hate or fear, differences.”

During the trip, students toured the facility and had the honor to meet and listen to the life-story of a Holocaust survivor.

“This group of seniors, in word and deed, appreciated deeply their experience at the Holocaust Museum. As their teacher, I’m attuned to how they move through the museum and pay attention to exhibits—are they truly reading, absorbing, and reacting to what they see and hear? I am so proud of these kids because they took their time and were engaged learners,” she explained. “As I descended the stairs into the lobby, I looked up to see a group of my students gathered around a Holocaust survivor. Their facial expressions and attentiveness conveyed their sense of empathy; they were rapt as he shared his life story. How rewarding and fulfilling it is to know that they clearly learned the central lesson: never to be silent or apathetic in the face of evil.”

Deakins said this experience provides students with a real-life experience that broaden their views of the world.

“I honestly believe that this unit and field trip opportunity make my students better people—the kind of people who can effect real change in the world for the good of all. Rather than to fear or to hate certain cultures, religions, ethnicities or political ideologies different from their own or to accept misguided prejudices or propaganda as truth, they want to know people as individuals and to discern fact from fiction to form their own informed opinions,” she added. “Most importantly, they recognize how dangerous a bystander mentality is and how damaging and tragic its consequences can be. I am confident that they have become more thoughtful, compassionate young adults, due to the generosity of the Blanche Beerman Fund.”