People of the Past event an impressive Aurora tradition

There was a whole lot of learning going on when Aurora seventh graders lifted their chins and came to life as famous characters from our nation’s past.
Thursday’s 12th annual People of the Past event was a fantastic experience all around, from my vantage point behind the lens. Students were TOTALLY engaged in their character and the audience was TOTALLY enthralled with the performances of young “actors” who themselves seemed to be coming of age right before our eyes. It was a feel-good evening for everyone involved.
Jeremy Dubas, one of several middle school teachers who work together to make this event happen, said People of the Past has become a “right of passage” so to speak for Aurora seventh graders. The combination of research, preparing a presentation, then writing and delivering a speech must seem daunting at the beginning. By showtime, however, students learn that they can handle big challenges by being organized, putting in the effort, then taking it one step at a time until the task is done.
Whether they realize it or not, that is an incredibly valuable lesson that could be applied to so many challenges they’ll face in the years ahead. In fact, I talked to several P.O.P. veterans in the crowd Thursday who recalled their presentation in detail from back in their seventh grade year. All good memories, I’m sure.
What impresses me the most about this unique Aurora tradition is the spotlight it shines on youngsters most likely making their public speaking debut. The two-minute presentations they gave on demand with the drop of a donation were very likely the first public speeches for many, which in and of itself offered a tremendous opportunity to develop skills they’ll use for a lifetime. You could see a few nerves in the early going, but as the hour wore on students seemed to gain confidence and poise with each rendition. No matter what careers they may one day pursue, being able to speak clearly in front of a crowd, backed with confidence that they know their subject matter well, will open doors at every turn.
Two thumbs up to the teachers and especially the students who challenged themselves to bring history to life in a format that bodes well for the future.
Kurt Johnson

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