ELMWOOD, Ill. (WMBD) — Elmwood junior and high school students spent a portion of their Tuesday schedule speaking with a piece of living history.
Students were able to Skype with Melba Pattillo Beals, who is a member of “Little Rock Nine,” a group of African American students who integrated Little Rock Central High School in 1957, despite many violent protests to keep the school segregated.
Students called the experience of Skyping with Beals “incredible,” “really cool,” and “emotional on a whole other level.”
Emily Roberts, a history teacher at Elmwood, said the original plan was to connect the students to the outside world using technology. She said during the process, they booked Melba Beals, with the financial help of the local churches, and decided to combine the lesson with civil rights history and Black History Month.
Roberts said her students have been reading Beals’ book “Warriors Don’t Cry,” which detailed accounts of her attending Little Rock Central High. Mia Swadinsky, a junior at Elmwood, said the book made her emotional.
“I cried and I laughed and just taking the emotional tolls that she went through, I could really feel that,” Swadinsky said.
Other students like Sadie Guthrie said reading the book was an unbelievable experience to think somebody could go through so much turmoil.
“With each chapter, she proved it always gets worse before it gets better,” Guthrie said. “She had to go through so much.”
There were other students like Greta Inskeep and Anthony Faulkner who said they were able to identify with the Beals after reading her book and speaking with her via Skype.
“I really enjoyed the book because she was really strong in her faith as I am too, but I’ll never be as strong in my faith as she was,” Inskeep said. “So I really want to be like her, in her faith.”
“I was able to connect with it on a personal level because I am one of the few African Americans at this school,” Faulkner said. “I didn’t feel the same things she felt, but emotionally I could kind of connect with her.”
Although the original idea might have been teaching the students about technology integration, many of them said they also walked away with life lessons.
“Stand up for what you believe in,” Inskeep, Faulkner, and Swadinsky said.
“Respect my differences and I’ll respect yours and I really took that to heart,” Guthrie said.