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English Department Chair Ari Zito has received an award from the Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater for “outstanding work...promoting the values and tenets embedded in Holocaust education."
The award recognizes the high educational caliber of a junior-senior course that Mr. Zito developed, Self/Service: The Edges of Obligation in Literature, that centers around a question: “What is our obligation to serve the society we inhabit, and what should be the limits of that obligation?" The course includes one of the first memoirs to be written about the Holocaust, Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz, which was first published in Italian in 1947 under the (translated) title, If This Is a Man.
Students in the course also read Kazuo Ishiguro's novel The Remains of the Day, a work of historical fiction, which reveals the Nazi collaboration of the English nobleman Lord Darlington, as told from the perspective of his butler Mr. Stevens, who comes to regret his unthinking loyalty to a man he had assumed was working to ensure peace. Like Levi's memoir, the novel offers profound moral lessons for students to internalize as they determine where their own obligations lie.
In a letter notifying Mr. Zito of the honor, officers of the Holocaust Commission wrote that the course “helps students to see that we all have choices to make based on our own values, and that those choices have consequences, which in times of war and crisis become even more charged. Teaching the works of Primo Levi exposes students to deep philosophical thinking as well as literature, and shows your commitment to the ideals of the Holocaust Commission."
The Esther Goldman Educators' Award, which Mr. Zito received, includes a cash prize and the opportunity to participate in further education for teachers at the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond or the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
The award is named for an Auschwitz survivor who spoke to thousands of students in an effort to teach the lessons that can be learned from the Holocaust, also referred to as The Shoah, about combating hate and injustice. Auschwitz was a complex of 40 concentration and extermination camps operated by the Nazis in occupied Poland during World War II where an estimated 1.5 million people, mainly Jews, were forced to work in barbaric conditions or were killed.
Historians estimate that more than 6 million European Jews were killed during the Holocaust, not only in extermination camps, but also by execution squads that carried out mass executions and burials in mass graves.
Mr. Zito's submission for the award included a poem that he had written, inspired by Levi's memoir. Many of his students, as well as students in other English classes at NA, also submitted poetry and artwork for the Holocaust Commission's annual student competitions. This year, four Norfolk Academy students won prizes and 11 were finalists (Read more about student winners).
The awards are typically presented in a formal ceremony on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, which includes a guest speaker. Because of the pandemic, this year's ceremony on April 8 will be done as a webinar.
Bridget Tan '21 figured out that she loved learning about global policies and diplomacy through experiences at Norfolk Academy. First, she was admitted to the Global Affairs Fellows of the Batten Leadership Program. Through that program, she went abroad for the first time--to Peru, where she learned about the impact of globalization on indigenous people.
She enrolled in International Relations, an elective course taught by Dr. David Rezelman, and that “accelerated my passion for foreign trade and policies," she said. “I like seeing how the United States interacts with other nations."
So this winter, when Dr. Rezelman inquired about students who would be interested in applying for the Model NATO Challenge, Bridget set aside her college applications for a short time and filled out the essays to apply for one of the 30 spots to represent the countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
She earned a position as a student diplomat representing Luxembourg, and her thorough work in research and presentation earned her one of three scholarships awarded for the session. She netted $1,000 for her third place finish. “I was very surprised to find out I had won," she said. “It is an honor."
Bridget said the experience was exciting, even though the entire event was virtual. She was assigned a mentor, someone who had professional experience at NATO, to help her learn about Luxembourg and NATO itself. They met via skype, and Bridget did hours of research on her own.
Student diplomats did not learn the topic of the debate until one week before, and once it was revealed, it felt almost inevitable: the NATO response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Bridget, that topic was particularly exciting, because it put a spotlight on Luxembourg: the NATO Securement and Procurement Agency (NSPA) is located in that country, and it is involved in distribution of medical equipment and vaccines. “It was a big deal for my country, because it has the headquarters," she said.
The event was held on March 17. Everyone logged in, using software that allowed students to see avatars sitting in seats. As young diplomats, they were required to use NATO lingo. “Every time I talked or addressed another person, I had to say 'Honorable Ambassador' to talk to them," she said.
A central part of the discussion was the challenge of misinformation about the coronavirus and about vaccines. NATO countries need to put out correct information, and the NSPA in Luxembourg needed to play a prominent role in disseminating facts.
“I definitely felt more comfortable talking because I researched the NSPA a ton," Bridget said. “That incentivized me to speak up, and it made me more confident knowing I had something to contribute." She hopes that more Bulldogs will apply to participate in the future, because it is a valuable educational experience, one that helped prepare her for college, where she plans to study political science.
Middle School CARE Club members worked diligently throughout the past months to fight injustice and highlight people who have been marginalized in society.
The club's efforts were part of the Season of Nonviolence, a worldwide movement that takes place annually between January 30 (the day in 1948 when Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated) and April 4 (the day in 1968 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated). The aim is to cultivate peace, love, and nonviolence.
During this time, club members spoke regularly during chapel to promote various efforts. They also offered contests in which Middle and Upper School students created art, poetry, and other fine arts projects in support of the efforts.
Here are the contest winners, which the club selected:
Middle School - Art
1ST PLACE: BLACK LIVES MATTER BY ANNA PANG
2ND PLACE: LEBRON JAMES BY SUSIE GUZIK
3RD PLACE: DUNK ON INEQUALITY BY LEO JONES
Middle School - Poetry
1ST PLACE: STAND FOR THIS BY VIVI DEANS
2ND PLACE: NONE OF US ARE LESS BY GENEVIEVE STONE
3RD PLACE: THE FIGHT FOR PEOPLE LIKE US BY ELLA STUFFLEBEEM
Upper School - Poetry
1ST PLACE: THE CLEANERS OF LIBERTY BY OWEN JOHNSON
2ND PLACE: RUN TONIGHT BY VICTORIA KAUFFMAN
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Naomi Mitchell '18 is having quite a spring season on the golf course.
A junior at the University of Richmond, Naomi was named the Patriot League Women's Golfer of the Week twice within three weeks in March.
The conference honored her on March 24, after she shot rounds of 75 and 74 in Richmond's win against rival William and Mary on March 21 at Independence Golf Club. That tied her for the best in the field of 13. Two weeks earlier she earned the same honor after shooting 220 at a tournament in North Carolina and a 76 in Zions Crossroads, Virginia.
Naomi has excelled throughout her collegiate career. As of March 24, she led Richmond with a stroke average of 74.57. Her sophomore stroke average of 77.11 placed second on the team and first among golfers to appear in at least three events. As a freshman, she earned two top-10 finishes and three top-20 finishes.
She also made the Patriot League's Academic Honor Roll as a sophomore.
Lower School students heard a powerful message in chapel on March 24, as they learned how to have the courage to be an ally.
Lakishia Biggs, Lower School Assistant Director, opened the chapel by defining the word. An ally is someone who stands up for people who are being treated unkindly or unfairly, she said. Allies provide support to make sure things are fair and equal for all.
Mrs. Biggs then read a book titled Wings by Christopher Myers that demonstrates what it means to be an ally. The book demonstrates another point as well: “It doesn't matter how old you are, you can make a difference by being an ally," Mrs. Biggs said.
What can young students do? They can become better people by listening attentively to others, evaluating their own words and actions and considering how they might change for the better, and speaking up in support of those who need help, Mrs. Biggs said.
The chapel closed with Mrs. Biggs challenging students to do all they can to be allies by thinking about their actions and looking for ways to make positive change. She read a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States.
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing," Mr. Roosevelt said. “The worst thing you can do is nothing."