Anne Frank Center Sapling Project|
What do the White House, Central High School in Little Rock, the Boston Commons, and the World Trade Center Site have in common with the Southern Cayuga School District? How do Anne Frank, Harriet Tubman, Emily Howland and William Seward fit into this equation? The answer lives in a small group of tree saplings cultivated from one of the most famous horse chestnut trees in history.
During World War II, Anne Frank, a Jewish teenager hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam, kept a diary for two years before being exposed. This diary was published by her father, the only family survivor, after Anne's death at the age of 15 from Typhus in a concentration camp. During those years of concealment, one of the few things that Anne could see from the window was a large horse chestnut tree. The tree survived until 2010 when fungus and a wind storm brought it down.
In October 2009, the Anne Frank Center announced that it was giving 11 saplings cut from this tree to sites in the US that represented social justice and freedom. Some of the places selected include obvious choices such as the World Trade Center site and Central High School, home of the Little Rock 9, but on the surface Southern Cayuga may seem a strange choice: a little rural school with seemingly no claim to fame. In fact, with the exception of Central High School, Southern Cayuga is the only school district on this prestigious list.
Actually, the school's grant application for the tree makes a strong case. To the north of the school lies Fort Ontario that housed Jewish refugees during World War II. The school is located near the homes of Harriet Tubman and William Seward, both abolitionists who lived in Auburn. Poplar Ridge, where the school is located, was strongly influenced by Quakers who believed in the equality of all men and women. The Women's Hall of Fame is located in nearby Seneca Falls, and the school's elementary school is named after Miss Emily Howland, who not only worked side by side with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, but also founded many schools for freed blacks and their children in the South. Finally, what better way to promote tolerance than to have the tree sapling in the care of other children, our future.