By Gabriella Dominic     4/12/2019

Diocese of Orange elementary school students were represented and recognized at Chapman University’s 20th annual Holocaust Art and Writing Contest awards ceremony last month. The theme this year was “Purposeful Telling through Memory to Action.” Students listened to the testimonial of a Holocaust survivor and then responded to the testimony through art, prose, poetry or video. Over 5,000 students from more than 100 schools in 30 states and 12 countries participated in this year’s contest.  

Grace Min of St. Pius V (Buena Park) took first place in the middle school prose category, based on a survivor testimony by Renée Firestone. Sophia Harvey of Holy Family Cathedral School (Orange) and incoming Rosary Academy Royal, took first place in the middle school poetry category. Harvey’s poetry was also based on Renée Firestone’s testimony.  

Irene Lee of St. Cecilia School (Tustin) took second place in the middle school art category. Lee’s art piece named “Tears of the Star,” based on Leon Weinstein’s survival story. Bien-Gorgio Suyat of St. Irenaeus Parish School (Cypress) was an art finalist. Michael C. of St. Junipero Serra Catholic School (Rancho Santa Margarita) was one of the five middle school prose finalists. 

St. Pius V School participates in this contest annually. In English Language Arts, St. Pius V students read “Number the Stars” in sixth grade. In seventh grade, students read “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank. In eighth grade, students learn more about the Holocaust. Students also have field trip opportunities such as going to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.  English Language Arts teacher, Durees Newell, asks her seventh and eighth grade students to participate in the contest every year. 

St. Irenaeus Parish School was represented by three eighth grade students: Erynn Sweeney, Hailey Lopez, and art finalist Bien-Gorgio Suyat. “This program provided by Chapman University and The 1939 Society, gives our students the chance to listen and respond to the real-life, tragic events of the past. Through listening to these stories, our students become witnesses to the Holocaust, giving meaning to the memories of those who suffered,” says Jenny Razo, sixth grade teacher at St. Irenaeus Parish School.  It is “a rare opportunity for anyone and a privilege for these middle school and high school students they will never forget,” added Lisa Sambrano, St. Irenaeus Parish School development coordinator.  

St. Junipero Serra Catholic School student, Michael C., was recognized as a finalist in the middle school prose category for his essay entitled “The Individuality of Numbers.” In addition, the school submitted a painting by Jillyan C. and a poem by Alizee G. entitled “Where Were We?”  

“To have the writing of one of our SJSC students recognized in a competition of this scope and caliber is exciting. It speaks not only to the quality of the students’ work but also to the quality of the writing program we offer. Our program gives students a strong foundation that serves them well at SJSC and beyond. ELA teacher Mrs. Pantano is to be commended for having her St. Junipero Serra Catholic students place as finalists and winners over multiple years. Her dedication to excellence and love for her students beautifully reflect the ministry of Catholic education,” said Angeline Trudell, president of St. Junipero Serra Catholic School in Rancho Santa Margarita. 

The annual Holocaust Art and Writing Contest for middle and high school students is sponsored by Chapman University, The 1939 Society, the Samueli Foundation, and Yossie and Danna Hollander with the support from USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education.