Holocaust survivor Eva Kor inspires scholarship fund, genocide education

By: 
Ashley Roness
Star Staff Writer
STAR PHOTO/Ashley Roness

Custer County District High School history teacher John Tooke watches as Sandra Anderson from the LP Anderson Foundation signs over a $5,000 check for the new genocide curriculum being offered at the high school. The money will go toward purchasing materials to enhance the curriculum.

 

A year later and Holocaust survivor Eva Kor is still leaving her mark on the community.

On Thursday, April 12, which was Holocaust Remembrance Day, a plaque was dedicated in the Custer County District High School (CCDHS) gymnasium lobby in honor of Kor’s visit to Miles City.

The plaque dedication was also the beginning of a fundraising campaign spearheaded by John Tooke, CCDHS history teacher.

The Candles Scholarship Fund will raise money to send students to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp through the Candles Museum and Education Center.

The Candles Museum was created in 1995 by Kor in Terre Haute, Indiana. The museum aims to prevent hatred and prejudice through education about the Holocaust.

In 1944, Kor and her family were taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Kor and her twin sister, Miriam, only 10-years-old at the time, became part of the group of children who were experimented on by Dr. Josef Mengele. Some of the fundraising includes an upcoming car wash, Sip ’n Paints and raffles. Tooke is also open to the idea of letting businesses sponsor a student and help pay their way to Poland.

The Miles City Area Community Fund also donated $820 to the foundation.

The trip costs $4,500 per person, which doesn’t include spending money.

This year Tooke has six students going on the Poland trip.

Tooke has already taken one student to Poland. At the time Tooke didn’t believe he was ready to bring students along but Lynsey Crump wouldn’t take no for an answer.

“She was like I am going. I’m going, I don’t care, I’m going,” Tooke said. “She said if I didn’t take her she would just go through the Candles Museum.” According to Candles, she needed a chaperone.

Tooke and Crump were part of a group of around 80 that spent 10 days in Poland with Kor.

“We’re trying to better their lives through history,” Tooke said.

Not only was Thursday the launch of the scholarship fund, it was also a celebration of the new genocide curriculum that is being introduced at the high school.

In the past year, the CCDHS social studies department has started working on extending their genocide curriculum. The LP Anderson Foundation gave a $5,000 grant to further the curriculum.

“One of the reasons we got involved was certainly the value of the cause but that it’s a fully integrated   program. It’s not just a trip, it’s curriculum and it’s curriculum that the board has approved,” said Sandra Anderson. “It’s ongoing. Eventually all the kids will be exposed to it one way or another.”

All the students are required to take U.S. History and Government which both will offer some genocide education. It will also be incorporated in World History, which is an elective for high school students.

According to John Tooke, they will hit between 90 to 95 percent of the students with more books, field trips, speakers and teacher training.

“The goal is that when students leave here they can define genocide, cite examples of it, see the causes of it and relate it to what they’re seeing in the world today,” Tooke said.

Another reason the Anderson Foundation wanted to support this cause is because of all the support the curriculum and the trip has received from the school board and administration.

CCDHS Principal Beez Lucero believes all that Tooke has done is great and that the new curriculum is a good addition to the high school.

“It’s important because the students are exposed to things like the Holocaust and some of the other genocides that have happened and are happening right now. This an opportunity for our kids to get a better understanding of what is going on. That life is more than what is happening here in Miles City, Montana,” Lucero said.

In the beginning Tooke relied heavily on Rob Stanton at Billings West High School. Stanton, who had worked with Kor, was able to help Tooke bring the renowned speaker and survivor to Miles City.

Stanton also introduced genocide curriculum to Billings West and was able to provide some basic information for the Miles City program.

When Tooke was first considering bringing Kor to Miles City he was told that he maybe would get 200 people to come to hear her speak.

“I said, ‘I think we’ll do a little better,’ obviously we did,” Tooke said.

Crowds filled the gym two days in a row, as Kor reached about  6,000 people while in Miles City.

For more information contact Tooke at jtooke@milescity.k12.mt.us.

(Contact Ashley Roness at starnews@midrivers.com or 406-234-0450.)

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