A Chapel Hill Middle School French language teacher brought language to life by taking a group of eighth grade students to France and the beaches of Normandy. We found out about her project this year as she prepares to take a group of East Chapel Hill High School students back to France for the 70th and final annual commemoration ceremony at the American Cemetery in Normandy.
Here is part of her story as she shared the goals of this year’s project. “I am a middle school teacher in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who has traveled to the American Cemetery in Normandy with thirty students since 2009. My students stay with families in Liege, Belgium, but an important piece of history, sacrifice and honor, is best learned when they walk Omaha Beach, visit the American Cemetery, and imagine the effects of war at Pointe du Hoc. While in Belgium, my students also visit Henri Chapelle and discuss the impact of WWII in French with their host families.
A group of six students, who are now juniors in high school ( 17 years old), would like to return to Normandy and volunteer to help with the 70th D-Day celebration. They are students who traveled with me in 2011 and who have a deep interest in honoring our veterans. These incredible young people have had relatives and close friends fight in WWII and another hopes to be a history teacher and travel abroad with students. All these students are doing very well in school, have achieved numerous honors and speak French well. Would you have any opportunities for them to volunteer for this event?” Robin McMahon,French teacher/ Smith Middle School, Chapel Hill, NC.
The students were invited to our post dinner meeting in February and they were greeted and welcomed by veterans from all conflicts going back to World War II. They met an Iwo Jima survivor, an Army Scout from the the Battle of the Bulge, Korean War vets, Vietnam Vets, Iraqi Freedom vets and more. They shared their project and our vets shared some of their experiences, life stories, and what they do now. They were eager listeners and so were we.
Our army scout and Battle of the Bulge survivor is Mark Sumner. Mark was awarded the French Legion of Honour in 2008. He is also a candidate to join the students as their guest to France where he will be able to attend the commemorative ceremonies. The students are raising funds so that they can take several D-Day participants with them, to include some veterans who fought in France.
These students, and their teacher, touched our hearts and we were honored to be able to assist them with their project. We donated $500, but we also decided to assist them as they reached out to local businesses and citizens as they told their story and sought financial support.
We will follow the students as they prepare for their journey, travel in France, and create their stories and presentations on return. We are very proud of these young students. We hope you are, too. For more information and to contribute, visit their website at: http://gettingtoknoweurope.org/nc-to-normandy/