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Nicole Korsen: Adopt-a-Survivor Event
recipients: Nicole Korsen, VA

Nicole Korsen and her father, a survivor, at the Adopt-A-Survivor event

One year ago, Nicole Korsen hosted Dominion High School’s first Adopt-a-Survivor event.  With the help of a mini-grant from TOLI, she was able to bring survivors to her school in Loudoun County, VA, to share their story with students who vowed to pass them on.

For Nicole Korsen, who teaches ninth grade English, sharing the lessons of the Holocaust isn’t just important, it’s personal.  As the daughter of a survivor she has always felt the need to share her family’s story

in a world where fewer and fewer people are being taught about the Holocaust.

Nicole was a participant in the TOLI summer seminar in New York City in 2017, where she was inspired by the group of teachers in her cohort.  

“That was what I’d been looking for,” Nicole says of her time with TOLI.  At the seminar, Nicole was finally able to connect with other teachers who shared her need to educate students about these injustices.  “I needed to be around people who knew the importance and urgency of it.”

At the seminar, Irving Roth spoke about his own Adopt-a-Survivor event, which inspired Nicole to host her own.  The event was held as a part of the annual Loudoun International Youth Leadership Summit, which brings together students from Loudoun county as well as student delegates from around the world.  Nicole was able to bring in five survivors for the event, her own father among them.

Because the student delegates were so diverse, Nicole decided to have select students speak about other genocides that have occurred around the world.  This was an especially important aspect of the event, because, as Nicole notes, “It’s not just about educating about the Holocaust. It’s about using the lessons to prevent future genocide.”

The students then broke into smaller groups to have more intimate conversations with the survivors.  Students were able to get to know them on a personal level, and the event ended with students pledging to share the survivors’ stories and light a candle on the Jewish Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom HaShoah, and the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In the aftermath of the event, Nicole has already heard back from many of the student delegates.  The students from Singapore were able to share their survivor’s story with an audience of 1,000 students at an assembly at their school.  A Dominion High School student on exchange in France saw the candle her host had received at the event prominently displayed in her bedroom.  In this way, the stories of these survivors are already generating a wider impact.

When asked why it’s important for her to teach about the Holocaust, Nicole reflects that she does it, “to make sure what [my family] went through wasn’t in vain.  What I’ve realized is that it’s not something that I can do alone.”

The event was such a success that Nicole is planning to do it again in 2019.  She is also returning to New York to attend the TOLI Leadership Institute to prepare her to lead her own TOLI satellite seminar in Virginia with partner Jennifer Rodgers in 2020.  

“I think it’s going to be something extremely different for them,” Nicole says of those who will attend.  The program has been designed specifically for teachers in Virginia, where there is a long legacy of slavery and inequality.

“It is through education, taking the story and giving it to the next generation; that’s how things are going to change,” Nicole explains.  “The Holocaust didn’t happen overnight and the solution isn’t going to happen overnight. But it can start in the classroom.”

To read more about Nicole and her work, click here. (link to article in Virginia Journal of Education: http://www.veanea.org/assets/document/VA/12_18_VJE%20Web.pdf)

To learn more about our current satellite seminars, click here. (link to satellites page)

This piece was written by Maryam ZiaSheikholeslami, Administrative Assistant for TOLI.

Contact

For more information about The Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights (TOLI), please contact info@tolinstitute.org

TOLI is located at 58 East 79th Street in Manhattan. (get directions)