Mini-GrantsReturn to Mini-Grants
River Valley Remembers
recipients: Lisa Darden-Moose, Van Buren High School, AR
River Valley Remembers was a month-long, multi-community event in the Fort Smith, AR, River Valley area designed to create Holocaust awareness and to provide educational opportunities for local students and community members. The event was created as a collaborative effort between two school districts, three communities, and three religious institutions. Over the course of the month, participating organizations presented two theatrical performances, a Yom Ha’Shoah service, a classical concert honoring Holocaust victims and survivors, and with support from the Memorial Library, an interactive exhibit from the Anne Frank Center USA. The exhibit, entitled “Anne Frank – A History for Today,” served as the central educational piece of River Valley Remembers.
The international exhibition “Anne Frank – A History for Today” provides viewers with a museum-quality, interactive experience. The exhibit, which was on display at the Van Buren High School, Alma High School, and the United Hebrew Congregation of Fort Smith, presents 32 English and Spanish panels examining World War II and the Holocaust trough the perspective of Anne Frank and her family’s personal experiences. Attendees watched a 30-minute introductory video entitled “The Short Life of Anne Frank” before touring the exhibit with trained student and adult docents.
A representative of the Anne Frank Center USA trained eleven sophomore Van Buren High School students and ten adult community members to serve as docents. The docents were taught methods for facilitating discussions, expanding on the panel information, and engaging viewers with questions. Lisa watched student docents “grow from hesitancy and fear of speaking aloud to confidently and effectively leading both large and small groups through the exhibit.”
During the nine days on display at the Van Buren High School Fine Arts Center, 1,200 students from four schools, and approximately 85 community members attended the exhibit. The exhibit offered a unique and powerful experience for the River Valley area’s primarily rural population. Over 60 percent of Van Buren students qualify for free and reduced price meals, and some students had never before attended a formal gallery. After touring the exhibit, participants were given an opportunity to respond in writing at a “Notes to Anne” station consisting of eight journals. Students conveyed sentiments of gratitude, sadness, and inspiration. One student writes, “Anne, Thank you for writing in your journal which impacted the generations to come. Your journal inspires me to not give up hope because sometimes it’s all we have.”