Paper Clips

Paper Clips

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Changing the World… One classroom at a time

Something amazing happened in the town of Whitwell, TN; a town where the population peaks at about 2,000 people and where the word “skyline” is epitomized in breathtaking views of the rustic Smoky Mountains.

The citizens of this rural Tennessee community are almost exclusively white and Christian; the town was not accustomed to cultural diversity. But in 1998 that all changed with a classroom project at Whitwell Middle School. The “Paper Clips” project sparked one of the most inspirational and profound lessons in tolerance, in one of the most least likely places.

Linda Hooper, the school’s principal, created the project out of her desire to help students open their eyes to the diversity of the world beyond their insulated valley. What ultimately happened changed the lives of the students, their teachers, their families and the entire town forever, and by the end, they had a new goal: to open the eyes and hearts of people around the world.

“Paper Clips” is a moving story about these students and their emotional journey as they begin to learn about the horrors and tragedies of the Holocaust. Despite the fact that they had previously been unfamiliar with the Holocaust, their dedication was absolute. With a promise to honor and memorialize every lost soul, the students decided to collect one paper clip for each individual exterminated by the Nazis. By the end of the project, the students not only collected 11 million paper clips, but were able to house them in a donated WWII railcar, so they would always have a permanent tribute to the millions who were lost and a permanent memory of the time their small school in Tennessee changed the world one classroom at a time.

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