Community of Scholars
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Generation Y, as today’s college students are called, have a strong but increasingly tenuous connection with the Greatest Generation – their grandparents who fought and lived through World War II. Wofford College senior Hannah Jarrett hopes to make sure that connection not only stays strong, but that she helps continue it to the next generation of children.
As one of 19 student research fellows in the Wofford College Community of Scholars program this summer, the Chapin, S.C., student plans to write a children’s book about the war, one that will “fascinate and educate children about the stories of our World War II veterans so they can honor and remember our country’s ‘Greatest Generation.’”
The Community of Scholars is a unique cross-disciplinary enterprise of Wofford College undergraduate students conducting independent research full time during 10 weeks of the summer. These student fellows representing many different majors are housed in The Village apartment-style housing complex. They conduct their research in collaboration with faculty fellows who are themselves engaged in their own research projects. Student and faculty research fellows in the humanities, sciences and social sciences create a community of scholars by meeting frequently, often over meals, to discuss their individual projects and issues of mutual interest.
Jarrett is inspired by Bill Dukes, a longtime Columbia, S.C., area businessman and civic leader, who started Honor Flight South Carolina two years ago, providing a one-day, all-expenses-paid charter flight to Washington, D.C., for veterans with physical and/or financial limitations who have never seen the World War II memorial there.
Dukes personally asked Jarrett to write the children’s book, so that more elementary school students can learn about that period in history.
“Most of the books that little kids have about World War II deal with the Holocaust, which is only a small part of the war,” Jarrett says. Dukes wanted a book that would provide more depth for children, especially since 1,500 World War II veterans a day are dying and nearly all of the distinguished vets of that war will be dead within the next 10 years.
“I had stories passed down to me by relatives … first hand accounts from people who were there,” Jarrett says. “Without the veterans, the next generation won’t have that first-hand account like I and others before me have had. I want the books to help provide some of that for them. I want to convey the story through pictures since the people who lived it might not be around much longer.”
She notes that children’s books are “one of the most important educational tools in elementary classrooms because they teach children in creative and fun ways that will stick with them forever. I have talked to many elementary teachers who have said there are not any books about WWII they can read in the classroom. I hope to write a book that will fascinate and educate children about the stories of our World War II veterans so they can honor and remember our country’s ‘Greatest Generation.’
“They were called the Greatest Generation because they truly protected the freedoms we enjoy today,” Jarrett says. “I have taken complete classes on World War II in high school and in college, but my great-grandparents lived it. It is so important to our history, and I want kids to appreciate them the way I do.”
For her research, Jarrett plans to read children’s books that deal with other historical issues, as well as other children’s books just to get a feel for structure and other requirements. She will talk to children’s book authors from around the state as well as educators to learn the craft of writing for children. She also plans to go on an Honor Flight as a veteran escort to meet some of the people she will be writing about.
“On the flight, not only will I hear first-hand stories, but I will also be able to see the veterans’ reactions to the World War II Memorial,” she says, “I cannot imagine the emotions the veterans must feel when they stand before their monument. Bill Dukes will be one of my main sources of knowledge and inspiration because he has met many veterans over the past couple of years on Honor Flights and knows their stories, including his own father’s.”
Jarrett has her own personal connection.
“My great-grandmother was a nurse during World War II,” she says. “When the veterans came back, they told her what they’d been through. Like most people who went through it, she didn’t like to talk about it a whole lot, but if something came up that reminded her of something, she would give me a little snippet without going into too many gory details.”
That is what Jarrett will have to do to create a children’s book. It’ a unique challenge, but one she can’t wait to take on.
“I haven’t started writing yet. I’ve just been jotting down ideas,” she says, “but I want to use the Honor Flight as a vessel for the stories. In my book, I’d like to use a child as a narrator – one who goes on an Honor Flight with the veterans and learns stories from the vets who are there. I want to keep that veteran narrative perspective, because that’s how I learned the stories.
She knows another challenge will be making the book appealing to adults as well as children. “That’s who will be buying them. It’s ultimately for the kids, but it has to interest the adult first. So that’s a challenge – to appease both of those audiences. My goal is for elementary school teachers to use it as a resource in their classrooms.”
Jarrett says books were very important to her when she was that age, although she admits this subject might appeal more to young males.
“When I’m thinking of my narrator, I keep thinking of it as a boy, because I think little boys will relate to it more,” she says. “Not that little girls can’t have an interest in it; it’s just that I know when I was a little girl, I was all about baby dolls and Barbies.”
Now she just has to integrate the G.I. Joes.
- Brett Borden