Kaleigh, a LaSalle Springs Middle
student, didn't know about Rachel Miller's story before a Dec. 4 assembly for all of the school's eighth-graders.
Miller, a local Holocaust survivor, told LaSalle Springs students about her experiences as a Jewish child living in occupied France during World War II: how she and her family were forced to leave their lives behind by the invading Germans; how her family sent her away to hide with her aunt in the countryside and how she lost 93 family members during the war, including her father, mother and sister.
To Kaleigh and the rest of the eighth-graders, all of whom are studying the Holocaust in their language arts classes, it brought new meaning to their texts.
"We've learned how people's lives were taken away from them for something that they couldn't control," Kaleigh said. "For her to go through that and survive it was something that will stick with me forever, seeing someone who could survive such a horrible thing."
Language arts teacher Amber Choate worked with the Rockwood Partners in Education
program to bring Miller to LaSalle. Choate said the school has been teaching a Holocaust unit for more than a decade, and she resonates with a different part of Miller's story every time she comes to speak.
"She is just the sweetest," Choate said. "No matter how many times you try to put yourself in their shoes or imagine what it was like, you can't. It helps give the kids an understanding of a personal experience that we have no other way of doing than to hear from someone who actually lived it."
After the talk, Miller met with students one-on-one and in groups. They lined up along the gym wall to share their gratitude with her for sharing her story.
"I was really in awe," Kaleigh said. "For her to lose so many people in her life and still be as strong as she is today stood out to me."