The majority of students in Kayla Wolf’s French classes are growing up in the shadow of 9/11, global travel alerts, terrorism and last month’s attacks in France.
Layla Jumonville, 15, a student in Wolf’s class, was born less than a year before the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, and she is disturbed by the latest acts of terror.
But, she is also optimistic and involved with her teacher’s efforts to help victims in France and to visit the country next summer.
Jumonville and other Math, Science and Arts Academy-West students and their parents are gearing up for the international trip, which now has even greater meaning, they said.
“I’m not afraid to go there (France),” Jumonville said, explaining that she does not want to live in fear. “I love the French language,” she said. “The attacks were so dumb and ignorant. What point are they trying to get across hurting innocent people?”
Wolf, who is bilingual and has a French heritage, was initially shocked and then grew concerned about continuing plans for her students’ trip abroad.
Upon learning that the educational and travel company was closely monitoring safety issues and had not cancelled the trips, she resumed her plans to lead the group.
“I’ve been to France several times, and I’m willing to go back. I want to show my students this country,” Wolf said. “Paris will always be a beautiful place.”
She also used Facebook to check on her former teachers from France and to make sure everyone was OK, she told me.
Wolf is using the Paris tragedy to draw attention to the victims of terrorism and to talk to young people about how they can make a difference.
Wolf addressed the terrorist issue during recent morning announcements, reaching 1,300 students.
“We did a remembrance of all who had fallen and prayed for the deceased,” Wolf said. “We offered hope and inspiration, and we talked about our school’s place to come together behind this tragedy.”
Students in her classes designed a French flag and draped it across the classroom’s dry erase board. Wolf has also initiated a giving drive in December.
“We are going to send letters and care packages to those families affected,” Wolf said.
Her attachment to the country is tied to her love for its language and culture, which she studied from age 5 through her college years, she said.
“I was taught by a teacher who lives in Paris with her family and children,” Wolf said. “There are many emotions behind this for me.”
Wolf said that while fear is inescapable, she wants her students to understand their role in helping to ease fears.
“When something tragic happens, we’ve got to get together and unite as one,” Wolf said. “When 9/11 happened here, the French lit up the Eiffel Tower to support us.”
Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.