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Manson student and teacher to study, eulogize D-Day soldier in Normandy

Jan 12, 2017

Julie Quade and her teacher Jenny Westerhoff of Manson Northwest Webster School District will honor fallen World War II hero

DES MOINES - A Manson Northwest Webster High School student and teacher have been chosen by the National History Day organization as one of only 15 student-teacher teams in the country to study and eulogize a fallen World War II hero in France this summer.

The National History Day organization selected Julie Quade and her teacher Jenny Westerhoff for the 2017 Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom Albert H. Small Student and Teacher Institute. The duo will identify and tell the story of a "Silent Hero" who gave his or her life in World War II during or after the Normandy landings on D-Day and is memorialized at the Normandy American Cemetery. This summer, they will will travel to France to present a eulogy at the grave or memorial of their chosen hero. Overseas travel, courses, room and board are paid for by Albert H. Small.

"We are very excited Julie and Jenny have been chosen to participate in this program," said Vania Boland, the state coordinator for National History Day in Iowa. "Each year, National History Day students and teachers spend countless hours with research materials from the State Historical Society of Iowa and other sources for their projects, which can lead to opportunities like this one. We encourage all Iowans to join us in congratulating Julie and Jenny for receiving this tremendous honor."

After each student-teacher team identifies and studies their Silent Heroes this spring, they will gather in Washington, D.C., this summer to finish their research with help from the National Archives, historians and college professors. While in D.C., they will tour the World War II Memorial, attend a dinner hosted by the White House Historical Association and prepare for the voyage of a lifetime.

The final leg of their journey is to Normandy, France, where the group will visit D-Day beaches and walk in the footsteps of the soldiers. After seeing museums, historic sites, and churches that were used as field hospitals, the group will visit the Normandy American Cemetery. There, each of the 15 students will deliver a graveside eulogy for the courageous person he or she spent the year researching.

“Throughout their research these students and teachers become incredibly connected to their Silent Heroes,” National History Day Executive Director Cathy Gorn said. “When they read their eulogies they are reading a eulogy for someone they know, someone whose story they are responsible for telling. It results in a powerful, and often tearful, understanding of the sacrifice these Silent Heroes made in World War II.”

The Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom Albert H. Small Student and Teacher Institute teaches a new generation about the sacrifices and challenges faced during World War II. The program is coordinated by National History Day and is funded by a donation from Small, a veteran himself.

Throughout the program, teachers and students create a memorial webpage about their profiled soldiers. After the conclusion of their travels, teams use these websites in presentations to local community groups, schools and classes, and veterans’ organizations.

“These digital records of the life and actions of a Silent Hero live on long after these teams return,” Gorn said. “They serve as a digital monument to the sacrifices made by the fallen.”

National History Day

National History Day is a year-long academic enrichment program that challenges students to research, develop and present papers, exhibits, documentaries, websites and performances about historical issues, ideas, people and events related to an annual theme. Students learn important literacy skills and how to conduct research using primary, secondary, community and statewide resources. Working individually or collaboratively in groups of two to five, they develop the following attributes that are critical for future success:

  • critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • research and reading skills
  • oral and written communication and presentation skills
  • self-esteem and confidence
  • a sense of responsibility for and involvement in the democratic process

Last year, more than half a million students around the world participated in the program, including nearly 8,000 Iowa students who competed at the school level. Sixty-six of those students advanced through district and state contests and competed in the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest last summer at the University of Maryland against nearly 3,000 students from the United States, Guam, American Samoa, Department of Defense Schools in Europe, and international schools in China, Korea and South Asia for scholarships and prizes.

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.