School is back in full swing as summer transitions to fall. Students are beginning to adjust to their altered schedules. New and returning faculty are gearing up for another progressive school year.
The summer months, despite feeling as always too short, were jam packed with excitement. One teacher and student in particular participated in an experience of a lifetime.
In June high school history teacher Eddie Diaz accompanied senior Kelly Wilhelmi to Washington, D.C., and Normandy to commemorate National History Day and the 70th anniversary of D Day. Only 15 students internationally were selected by the Albert Small Normandy Institute for this privilege.
“It wasn’t just a trip; it was a whole process,” says Diaz. Together he and Wilhelmi immersed their time in reading assignments and online classes. They accumulated and shared the story of Albert Prescott, a WWII veteran who was killed in the invasion. Diaz believes it was his and Wilhelmi’s willingness to spread their knowledge that solidified their place for this extraordinary tour.
“The whole idea behind the institute is to transmit the sacrifice these guys went through and everything they did,” says Diaz.
During the week the two were in D.C., they stayed at George Washington University where they attended many lectures, including those given by the FBI and Department of Defense. They were given VIP tours of the Smithsonian, researched in the National Archives and explored the National Mall. Kelly even gave a speech at the White House ,hon,oring his soldier. Following D.C., the pair boarded a plane to France and walked in history’s shadow on the beaches of Normandy.
“It was an amazing experience,” says Wilhelmi. “I have a deep respect for the people who give their lives in service and sacrifice for this country.”
Diaz, who is in his fifth year at Perry High School, encourages students and teachers alike to see what is out there and tributes this past summer’s adventure to the information learned from attending a variety of conferences.
“There are so many opportunities out there,” he says.
Wilhelmi is excited to complete his senior year and move on to bigger challenges. Obviously driven by the desire to help others, he plans to attend Iowa State University and study kinesiology to eventually pursue a career in physical therapy.
Both gentlemen reflect upon their unique trip and savor the opportunity to lend their voices to share the story of a hero long since silenced.
“I was really honored that we were picked from Iowa and our soldier was from Iowa. I think it’s important that Iowans care about other Iowans,” Wilhelmi says.