Seniors visit Washington D.C. and tour the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Students+in+Mr.+Ruggiero%27s+Geonice+and+the+Holocaust+class+stand+on+the+steps+of+the+Supreme+Court+on+their+4-day+visit+to+Washington+D.C.+in+November.+The+main+purpose+of+the+trip+was+to+tour+the+United+States+Holocaust+Memorial+Museum.
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Seniors visit Washington D.C. and tour the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Students in Mr. Ruggiero's Geonice and the Holocaust class stand on the steps of the Supreme Court on their 4-day visit to Washington D.C. in November. The main purpose of the trip was to tour the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Students in Mr. Ruggiero's Geonice and the Holocaust class stand on the steps of the Supreme Court on their 4-day visit to Washington D.C. in November. The main purpose of the trip was to tour the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Photo courtesy of Mr. Dennis Ruggiero

Students in Mr. Ruggiero's Geonice and the Holocaust class stand on the steps of the Supreme Court on their 4-day visit to Washington D.C. in November. The main purpose of the trip was to tour the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Photo courtesy of Mr. Dennis Ruggiero

Photo courtesy of Mr. Dennis Ruggiero

Students in Mr. Ruggiero's Geonice and the Holocaust class stand on the steps of the Supreme Court on their 4-day visit to Washington D.C. in November. The main purpose of the trip was to tour the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Nicole Gresham, Staff Writer

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While St. Pius X students and staff prepared for Thanksgiving break, three teachers and 37 seniors in Theology teacher Mr. Dennis Ruggiero’s Genocide and the Holocaust class traveled to our nation’s capital Thursday, November 14 – Sunday November 17 for an educational weekend that culminated in a visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 

“The trip was really really intense. We had a huge itinerary to cover and lots of things to see,” Mr. Ruggiero said.

Mr. Ruggiero co-founded the Holocaust class 19 years ago with librarian and former social studies teacher Mrs. Leyanna Messicks after attending two 40-hour workshops at the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum in Midtown.

“After the teaching opportunities at the Breman, I realized that we really needed to bring this class to St. Pius,” he explained. “I had a vision and a calling, and so I wrote up a proposal with Mrs. Messick and we brought the class to St. Pius.”

Since then, the class has matured into a popular senior-only elective that counts as a social studies credit.

“I decided to take this class because there are still people living in our world who have experienced the Holocaust,” senior Izzy Stroth said. “We are getting to the point where we don’t remember it as much, and I want to be a part of the group of people that remembers and learns from their lives and their value. And, I love Mr. Ruggiero as a teacher!”

The Holocaust class is incredible, and the trip just solidified that. From the friendships that we created to the monuments and history we saw and could appreciate, I just had the best experience.”

Describing his experience on the trip, senior Aidan Shaw agreed. 

“The Holocaust class is incredible, and the trip just solidified that. From the friendships that we created to the monuments and history we saw and could appreciate, I just had the best experience,” he said. 

The group left school early and flew into D.C. on Thursday evening. Before getting to their hotel, they stopped to see the Washington Monument, World War II Memorial, and Martin Luther King Junior Memorial. 

Senior Maggie Braswell was amazed by the beauty of Washington D.C. at night. 

“The monuments were lit up, and it was so gorgeous to see them at night,” she said.

The next morning, they went to Arlington National Cemetery and saw the Changing of the Guard, “a ceremony in front of Arlington, and every hour, they change the military guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” Stroth explained.

From there,, they went to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and Korean War Veterans Memorial. 

“After the Memorials on Friday, we went to a hockey game. The Capitals played the Canadiens, and it was a really exciting game. Then, we went to go get Chinese food at Wok and Roll,” Mr. Ruggiero said. “That was my most memorable time for sure, having food with the amazing people at my table. The trip just really brings everyone together.”

The next morning, the group toured the Capitol Building and went to the Library of Congress, Mr. Ruggiero’s favorite building. 

“The Library of Congress is the most beautiful building in the United States, hands down. Nothing compares to it,” he said. 

After the Library of Congress, they wandered around the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum. 

“I let everyone pick where to go when we were at the Smithsonian. Some popular museums we saw were the National Gallery of Art, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum African American History, and the Hirshhorn Museum of Modern Art,” said Mr. Ruggiero. 

Many of the students enjoyed the museums and unique educational opportunities. 

“I hadn’t seen hardly any of the Smithsonian Museums. I definitely appreciate D.C. a lot more now, and when I go back, I’d love to see more museums,” Stroth said.

We spent three hours in the museum, and it was really emotional for a lot of people because after taking the class, you make a much stronger connection.”

Students also visited the shrine of the Catholic University of America, which Mr. Ruggiero deemed “the most beautiful shrine in America.”

Ending their Saturday night by shopping at Pentagon City Mall, students then prepared for their last day and final destination: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“Sunday, we go to the Holocaust Museum all day. There’s nothing else we do, and it’s the main reason why we go to Washington,” Mr. Ruggiero added. “We spent three hours in the museum, and it was really emotional for a lot of people because after taking the class, you make a much stronger connection.

“You go from the abstract to the personal. Everything is abstract: 6 million, 5 and a half million, this many deaths in this camp, and so on and so forth, but then it becomes personalized and that’s the connection,”

The museum definitely made an impact on the students, including senior Penelope Melissas

“The Holocaust museum was very difficult to walk through,” she said. “I didn’t want to walk through it with my friends and I really just took my time reading all the exhibits, letters, and information that was surrounding me. There were certain parts of the museum that made me feel really empty, and I was just at a complete loss for words.”

Melissas encourages everyone to take the class their senior year.

“Taking the Holocaust class was such a good decision for me. I have learned so much and made so many connections. Plus, I have a new appreciation for Washington. I can’t imagine my senior year without the Holocaust class!” Melissas exclaimed.