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Bus of Latrobe students to visit Holocaust museum in D.C.

| Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

A group of Greater Latrobe Senior High School students will learn about the horrors of the Holocaust, in which some 6 million Jews were killed by the German government during World War II, when they visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington on Thursday.

“Gaining an emotional, experiential connection on the Holocaust will help our students when learning about genocide in other time periods and in other parts of the world,” said trip leader Kara Olecki-Leeper, who teaches global studies, law and economics at the high school.

To prepare the students for the experience, the Anti-Defamation League, a New York-based organization that opposes anti-Semitism, conducted a workshop prior to the trip and will conduct another one after it, said Olecki-Leeper. The workshops focus on efforts to stop hatred and bullying in correlation to events of the Holocaust and everyday life, she said.

The trip is planned and organized with workshops and includes writing assignments, bus discussions and related videos on the drive to Washington. A “wrap-up workshop” will follow, Olecki-Leeper said. An Anti-Defamation League facilitator accompanies students on the trip.

“They will also gain an experience that they can take back to the classroom for future lessons. Experiential learning allows our students to relate to, or reflect upon, what they have learned and apply it to other situations throughout history and today,” Olecki-Leeper said.

As part of its preparation for the trip, the high school social studies department hosted a viewing and discussion of “Schindler's List,” a movie about a Nazi-run concentration camp in which thousands of Jews were killed in gas chambers.

This will be Olecki-Leeper's second time working with the Anti-Defamation League and taking students to the museum.

“Last year's trip was a memorable one for myself and the students. It was a very emotional day and one entrenched in experiential learning,” Olecki-Leeper said.

“We feel that when a student can connect their own emotion to a historical time period or event, they open themselves up to a higher level of learning and retention of that information,” she added.

Many of the Greater Latrobe students last year had the opportunity to meet Holocaust survivors at the museum and speak with them, Olecki-Leeper said.

“It was informal as the survivors were also guests visiting the museum that day,” she said.

Julie Slezak, 18, a senior from Unity who went on the trip last year, said learning about the Holocaust is “a humbling experience.”

“It really teaches us where we came from and to be happy with what we have, no matter what,” Slezak said. “It truly was a humbling trip that I think everyone should experience at least once in their life.”

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or