CRHS students experience WWII History

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For most high school students, summer vacation is a time to relax and enjoy some well-deserved free time. But for Dalila Sandoval and Jaron Pidcock, two seniors at Coal Ridge High School, their summer break was anything but ordinary. 

This July, the pair traveled to Normandy, France, where they visited the beaches of Omaha and Utah, where the Allies landed on D-Day during World War II. They were part of a group of high-school students representing five high schools from New Castle to Basalt, who took part in the 12-day trip in July that included a visit to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

The trip is sponsored by Roaring Fork Valley philanthropist Paul Bushong who works with the Aspen Community Foundation to give area students the opportunity to participate in the museum-sponsored Normandy Academy.

The trip was an eye-opening experience for both students, who said they were grateful for the opportunity to immerse themselves in a piece of history. 

"Something that like really opened my eyes was just seeing the beaches - seeing exactly where they landed,” said Jaron.  “The beaches and cliffs were absolutely stunning and gorgeous and beautiful. But then on the other hand, there were leftover artifacts from the war, like cannons and walls that were preserved. Despite all the bloodshed that happened on those beaches 80 years prior, it was still so stunning to experience.”

"I thought about war the whole time we were there and about how it impacts a certain generation.  It leaves footprints on the souls of so many people,” explained Dalila.

Both Jaron and Dalila saw this as an opportunity to travel the world, but neither were prepared for the impact of meeting survivors like “Collette,” a French resistance fighter as a 14-year girl. She and her brothers would sabotage the vehicles of the Nazi soldiers that her father, a mechanic, worked on.


“Colette still sees the world as moving past this big event that defined her life. This experience made me think about  the idea of time and how it kind of like moves with us as people,” explained Dalila. “This trip also showed me how war is something that I'll never be able to relate to. It's not something you ever can relate to unless you experience it firsthand.  There's really no way. It’s just a horror, but the survivors just seem to have more wisdom because they've seen how the world changed.”

Jaron and Dalila both learned about the opportunity through their CMC US History instructor, Paul Harvey and for each, it was an opportunity to add to their very limited travel experience.

“I've never been anywhere except for California or Colorado,” said  Dalila, “so I was like New Orleans. I've heard about it. I've seen it in the movies. I want to go. I wanna go, it looks cool.”

Jaron is a self-proclaimed geography nerd, so the idea of an adventure appealed to him.

“I just love going as many places I, as I possibly can. I've been to like various states, but Louisiana was not one of them I've ever been in new Orleans. So I was definitely interested to go explore that area and I've heard like really cool things about it.”

Dalila also realized that she was able to teach people through her world view.

“Going there and felt like breaking standards because, as a person of color, I felt like I got some weird looks. I want to tell people that when you go to other places, you're not just learning from them, you get an opportunity to teach them as well. It’s great when we can all learn from each other.”

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