Before the end of the recent school year, Kathryn Woodward, a 6th grade student at Harrison Schmitt elementary participated in an extra-curricular program, the National History Day program. National History Day (NHD) is a non-profit organization that operates an annual project-based contest for students in grades 6-12. Its purpose is to promote the study and appreciation of history among students. The 45th annual national judging event held at the University of Maryland hosted nearly 3000 students with their families and teachers for the week-long event.
Kathryn’s project was about Irena Sendler, the “Secret Savior." Irena was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 when it finally became known the role she had played in rescuing children from the Nazis during World War II. When Nazis invaded Poland, Irena posed as a nurse and began to deliver supplies into the Warsaw ghettos. She began hiding Jewish orphans in her suitcases or toolboxes, secreting them out of the neighborhoods to safety and assisted in finding non-Jewish families to adopt them. Eventually, she approached parents, persuading them to let her save their children before the family was gathered up and taken to concentration camps or killed. As a member of the Polish Underground Resistance and Zegota, a council for “Aid to Jews," she rescued 2000 children before she was caught and sent to prison where she was tortured and sentenced to death. The Zegota Council saved her by bribing her prison guards to get her released. When she returned to her work, she saved 500 more children. No one knew of her bravery until Irena was 90 years old. She died in 2008 at the age of 98. She stated that “Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this earth and not a title to glory."
Kathryn’s project about Mrs. Sendler received first place at the Regional Contest held in Las Cruces and her second place win at the State Contest held at the University of New Mexico qualified her to compete at the National level the week of June 8-13. Her project was well received and the experience, which included a tour of Washington DC made a wonderful memory.