Guilderland Central 10th grade English students stand with their "Hope Tree" after reading "Night" by Elie Wiesel.
Photo by Marcy Velte.
continued Each student was given a gold star and was asked to write down something that symbolized hope in a time of despair.
One student wrote, “I believe no human should be judged on just one thing.” Another wrote, “I have learned that one can survive horrible events with hope, and their survival can teach us all to hope.” One student asked for an equal world, where people aren’t treated like objects.
The star were then turned into ornaments and placed on a fake tree inside the classroom.
Eventually the students asked if they could send a letter to Wiesel, who is 83 years old.
“I feel like they were worried about him still,” said Salamone.
The letter read, “We are grateful for your story and wanted to share what we learned from you, with you.” It also contained each of the student’s messages that were placed on the tree and a class photo.
To the students’ surprise, they soon received a reply.
“I am moved to learn of the effect that my memoir, ‘Night,’ had on you,” wrote Wiesel. “As a writer nothing is more important. From your words, it is obvious that you are all very sensitive to the darkness of which I wrote.”
Wiesel told the class he “was touched by the tree of message” and he hopes it blooms in the spring.
“You can use your knowledge and understanding to educate those who are unaware. You and your classmates can make a difference in creating a new kind of century,” he wrote.
The class was ecstatic at receiving the letter. Zach Johnston said he never thought they would hear back. “He’s such a celebrity,” he said.
The class will now plant a real “hope tree” on school property in the spring. Wiesel has been invited to attend the event.
“We want to see if he will join us, but he is elderly now so he might not,” said Salamone. “But it’s nice he responded specifically to our letter.”
She said in the future not every class would participate in the project.
“I thought it was beautiful because it came from the class and it had an impact,” she said. I don't want it to be teacher directed because it's not the same. I think that's why (Wiesel) responded, because he knew it came from them.”