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IWitness Workshop for Detroit Students at Henry Ford Museum Inspires Determination and Courage

With the 2015 Ambassadors for Humanity Gala in Detroit just a month away, local students experienced IWitness in their own backyard, at the Henry Ford Museum.

During the one-day program for middle- and high school students Aug. 13 and 14, USC Shoah Foundation staff led a special activity that connected testimony to the museum’s exhibit Liberty and Justice for All. The exhibit covers the evolution of American freedom from the Revolutionary War to the struggles for women’s suffrage and civil rights. Visitors can board the bus that Rosa Parks was riding in December 1965 when she made her historic stand for civil rights and view other historic artifacts.

After touring the exhibit, the students, who came from the Henry Ford Academy, Boys and Girls Clubs, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and other local educational organizations, participated in the IWitness Mini Quest activity “Finding Your Seat on the Bus” at Henry Ford Academy. Through the testimonies of Holocaust survivor Kurt Messerschmidt, American politician Elizabeth Holtzman, and liberators Leon Bass and Paul Parks, students learned about the combination of characteristics, grit and determination it takes to be a social innovator and to make a difference.  

The students concluded the activity by making their own acrostic poems about their goals, obstacles and determination, using words like “resilience” and “courage.” The poems needed to refer to Rosa Parks and the testimony clips they watched in IWitness.

The workshop was part of USC Shoah Foundation’s program IWitness Detroit, a two-year effort that focuses on the development of local capacity through the provision of teacher education, programming for students and key academic resources to engage students in learning through eyewitness testimony, delivering a multimedia educational experience which builds core knowledge, 21st century digital literacies, critical thinking and empathy.  

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