Last week history was made when a new tradition was launched in the Middle School. The first Annual Induction to the Turtle Club Hall of Fame was held, honoring 16 individuals who have persevered in the face of great challenges. This special ceremony was so named because the turtle is a totem for perseverance, for sticking steadfast to our path when the going gets tough, and for living into the famous fabled message, “Slow and steady wins the race.” The turtle is also a symbol of protection, peace and inner strength. The name The Turtle Club is also fitting as it hearkens back to the first social club in the United States which opened in 1796 at the site of Sybil’s Cave on the Hoboken riverfront. Founded by Col. John Stevens, The Turtle Club boasted such members as Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.
As part of the project, students selected someone in their lives who has demonstrated a spirit of perseverance and great inner strength despite obstacles they faced along their journey. Individuals chosen by the students have wrestled with a variety of challenges including cancer, war, political persecution, emigration, debilitating health issues, and severe anxiety, to name a few. In studying the lives of real people, our students were able to learn firsthand about perseverance and resilience, and were able to understand the importance of staying strong and true to oneself, the power of hope and optimism, and the ability to graciously accept help from other people.
I hope you enjoy the example I selected to share, below.
Turtle Club Essay
By Dylan, Grade 6
In our Essential Questions class this year we have been learning about perseverance and resilience. Perseverance and resilience means that someone did something where all the odds were against them but they still pulled through and succeeded. We call this the “Turtle Club” because turtles show perseverance and resilience all through their lives. Even the first time they hatch from their eggs they are hit with the challenge of getting into the ocean without being eaten. We are interviewing people who went through challenges and showed perseverance and resilience and are writing these essays about them. My interviewee is my grandpa. He persevered because he had a very hard time when he got kicked out of Poland (his home) with my grandma and dad, but he still made it to the United States unharmed. This is how he overcame his challenge!
My grandpa is 74 years old. He lives in Manhattan with my grandma. My dad’s side of the family is Jewish. My grandpa got kicked out of Poland (his home) because it was communist, and the communist and anti-Semitic people led a series of pogroms in the late 1960s. This made them scared every day so they made the decision to leave. He was very sad and scared about getting kicked out of his home, especially with my grandma and their baby (my dad). They were sent on a train and didn’t know where they were going. Also they didn’t even get to take anything from their home with them. They ended up in Italy and had to stay there for seven months, because when they were kicked out of Poland they got their passports taken away. So they waited seven months before they got their passports to get on a plane and fly to America.
When my grandpa spent seven months in Italy he barely had any money. They couldn’t even get jobs because they didn’t have paperwork to show and they didn’t speak Italian. My grandma would always tell me funny stories about how they went to the nicest of restaurants in Italy then just ordered bread or pasta (the cheapest things). My grandparents were very scared at the time. It’s hard to take care of a small child with barely any money. Luckily, The American Jewish Organization supported them and gave them money to buy their passports and get into America.
This experience changed them because if this never had happened, they probably would still be living Poland. My grandfather said, “This experience made us stronger.” My grandfather has helped others by paying back the American Jewish Organization. Also they donate money to others who need it, just like they did during their tough times.
So my grandfather got kicked out of Poland with nothing, spent seven months in Italy, and finally got to America. He lived in Brooklyn with my great-grandmother and great-grandfather where they were still poor. They couldn't even get well-paying jobs (my grandpa was a car service driver and my grandma worked in a blood center), but they worked hard and eventually they were able to learn English. By not giving up both my grandparents got the jobs they were qualified for. My grandfather helped engineer a plane called the F14. In the plane, he designed the heads up display, and the F14 is now on the Intrepid. My grandma became a professor at Columbia University and is a well-known Polish poet. So this is why my grandparents are like turtles: they persevered against odds, just in a different way.