Eight East Peoria Community High School juniors recently stepped outside their classroom for an important lesson in history.



Bridget Bankes, Tia Eberle, Kayvon Emtiaz, Corrie Fay, Alexa Grant, Kristina Ingold, Mark Nabors and Bielle Stanford were selected to attend the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center’s Student Leadership Day in Skokie based on essays they wrote showing interest in learning about the Holocaust.


Eight East Peoria Community High School juniors recently stepped outside their classroom for an important lesson in history.

Bridget Bankes, Tia Eberle, Kayvon Emtiaz, Corrie Fay, Alexa Grant, Kristina Ingold, Mark Nabors and Bielle Stanford were selected to attend the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center’s Student Leadership Day in Skokie based on essays they wrote showing interest in learning about the Holocaust.

“This field trip allowed our students to interact with students from around the state as they develop their sense of becoming global citizens,” said EPCHS teacher Marty Green who attended the museum with the students. “This generation of students may be the last group to interact with Holocaust survivors on a one on one basis.”

Students met at the high school at 5 a.m. and arrived at the museum at 9 a.m. After making their way through security, students were divided into different groups where they met students from other schools. Then they toured the museum, had lunch and spoke with Holocaust survivors. After that, they listened to a first-hand account of the 1994 Rwandan genocide from child survivor Emmanual Habimana.

“I think talking to the actual survivors kind of put things into perspective,” Bankes said. “It’s one thing to hear about it from a teacher, but once you hear about it from somebody who was there, you realize that it actually was real.”

Ingold said that sitting in the museum’s German rail car was a memorable experience.

“You could almost feel the presence of a ton of people there and could imagine that they were all riding in this train car and headed to death camp at one time,” Ingold said.

“The part that kind of stuck with me the most was when we went through the exhibit and got to look at a lot of pictures,” Bankes added. “There were pictures of a lot of people who looked happy and didn’t really know what was awaiting them.”

The students all agreed that touring the museum gave events from that past an authenticity that could not have been achieved by merely reading a textbook.

“When you’re in a museum, it’s almost like your walking through it and actually seeing it happen before your eyes, almost like you’re a part of history itself,” Ingold said. “When you’re just sitting in the classroom, it’s just talking and maybe pictures, but when you’re actually there, you’re immersed in it. You can actually see and feel what others witnessed and felt.”

Nabors said it is important to learn about tragic events that happened in the past to remember and “to not let it happen again.”

While Student Leadership Day increased awareness and knowledge of the Holocaust and genocide, the students also learned that the past has a tendency to repeat itself. Issues including indifference and bullying, which played a role in tragic historical events are alive today.

“I just thought it was a really good opportunity to learn more and experience more about the Holocaust,” Stanford said. “I think everyone can agree that something like that is important to remember and then we need to get the word out and we need to understand that not accepting people for who they are and how they act is exactly what started the Holocaust and genocide. Discrimination is a terrible thing that is still present.”