Four members of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board have been recognized by the Hamilton Jewish Federation for using their platform to share difficult, but necessary, stories about the Holocaust.
Their contributions were honoured this past December with the Sharon Enkin Award for Excellence in Holocaust Education. The award was created by Toronto-based philanthropist Larry Enkin in 2011 in memory of his wife, Sharon, whose lifelong involvement with education and community affected the lives of thousands of students.
Mike Difederico, Department Head of Canada and World Studies for Bishop Tonnos Catholic Secondary School was this year’s recipient.
“For over 20 years he has been educating young people about social justice issues and has piloted programming at our school in order to bring a heightened awareness of the Holocaust, as well as Human Rights, Genocide, Indigenous and Women’s Rights,” said teacher Kaly Sergi.
Since piloting the course, Genocide & Human Rights, Difederico continues to create a culture of inclusivity in his department and indeed, the school, noted Principal Carm Barone.
“His dedication to increasing awareness of the Holocaust and Genocides around the globe has inspired him to continue developing his knowledge on the topic and to find ways to infuse that knowledge into the life of the school,” said Barone.
In addition to Difederico, three students from Cathedral High School were also acknowledged for their understanding of the lessons of the Holocaust with the Sharon Enkin Student Award, which was established in 2019.
Open to all students in Grade 10-12, applicants were asked to choose any medium to answer the following: “Although Auschwitz was liberated 75 years ago, the lessons of the Holocaust are more important than ever in our world. Why is it so important in 2020 for young people to learn the lessons that the Holocaust shows us?”
In 1st Place, grade 12 student Jacquelyne Villaspin chose to use her gift of artistic expression to create a graphite portrait of a young girl whose voice is shown to be silenced by poignant and powerful key words emblazoned in the background.
Grade 12 student Chiara Fricano took 2nd place by penning a piece that outlined the importance of Holocaust education and the impact it will have on future generations.
Taking 3rd was grade 12 student Amber Spencer, who also took a visual approach and created a painting that connects the past, present and future. The painting shows two hands reaching out towards each other, one a victim of the holocaust and the other from the present day. The image is surrounded by the written words of holocaust victims and survivors.
"We are so exceptionally proud of each of these young ladies,” said Student Success Teacher Amanda Ottolino.
“Not only are they active members in their Cathedral community and family, but they have also proven themselves to be growing global citizens by sharing their gifts and unique perspectives of how we are able to right the wrongs of the past through our present-day dialogue and actions."