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SES students help Gerry's Food Pantry

ROCHESTER — In just one week, students at St. Elizabeth Seton School collected 1,200 items to benefit Gerry's Food Pantry, surpassing their goal of collecting 1,000 items, which include nonperishable food items and hygiene products. Because of the success of the donation drive, organized by the Student Council, the students got a special treat — on Friday, Dec. 4, they were allowed to wear jeans (typically the students wear a school uniform).

"They really did a fabulous job," said Cathy Olson, one of the Student Council advisers.

Wayne McCarthy, of Gerry's Food Pantry, said the donations are a great help, especially as the pantry sees increased demand for the upcoming winter season.

Addressing her fellow classmates on Friday, Student Council President Emily Sherman said, "You guys should be proud of yourselves. It's going to help a lot of people who don't have enough money to eat."

According to members of the Student Council, the donation drive got pretty competitive, as different grade levels at the school tried to outdo each other with the amount of donations. The winning class was fifth grade, which collected more items than any other grade at the school.

SES teacher wants students to be impassioned, reject indifference




ROCHESTER — In what she described as an eye-opening whirlwind of events, St. Elizabeth Seton teacher Christina O’Brien traveled across country this summer, gaining a deeper perspective on the Holocaust and issues of anti-Semitism.

O'Brien, of Rochester, was one of 37 Catholic educators to travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Anti-Defamation League’s Eileen Ludwig Greenland National Bearing Witness Summer Institute during one week in July.

“One evening we went to the Israeli Embassy … (on another) we went to a reception at the German Embassy," O'Brien said. "We went to the Holocaust museum and were able to go an hour before it opened to the public.”

O’Brien said the story of Holocaust survivor Halina Peabody had a particular impact upon her. Peabody came to tell the educators her story at the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“It was just the 37 of us in the room with this woman, and it was very personal and meaningful,” O’Brien stated.

Peabody’s story, along with others’ like hers, is something O’Brien plans to take back with her to Rochester.

“I think that kids really relate to stories quite a bit, and now I have lots and lots of great chances to explore how to tell these stories,” she said. “There’s so much to bring back. There are books that address a rescuer’s aspect, a bystander’s aspect, and the aspects of Hitler’s youth, and how they were roped in so young and didn’t understand everything.”

She acknowledged that she also has gained a personal understanding of issues revolving around anti-Semitism.

In a testimony she wrote after participating in the program, O'Brien said,"For me, it was learning about the long history of Anti-Semitism along with the systematized evil of the Nazis and layered with the Anti-Semitism taking place in the world today. I feel a sense of mission to teach my students not only about the great evil of Holocaust, but to be impassioned, to reject indifference, and fight against Anti-Semitism. I want them to become life long learners and watch for genocide in our world and stand up against acts that violate the dignity of human beings."

O’Brien has been a teacher at the St. Elizabeth Seton School for nine years, and primarily teaches a variety of seventh and eighth grade classes.