Aug. 5, 2015 | Studying WWII in New Orleans and France!

This summer she spent two weeks exploring historic sites in New Orleans and France!
About The Normandy Academy | The Normandy Academy is a partnership between The National WWII Museum in New Orleans and National History Day. The program includes research in the archives and warehouses of The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, and ends in the historic American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach, Normandy. Students complete a rigorous course of study to earn three college credit hours. Students assess the leadership decisions of officers and soldiers in locations affected by the battles, and leave the Academy with a deeper understanding of WWII history.
A few words with Natalie:
Natalie, congratulations on your selection to participate in the Academy. Tell us about yourself!
I love challenging courses like math, science, and history, which has allowed me to boost my GPA to a 4.3. Although I do a lot for school and athletics, I also love to spend time with my friends and family. I love to be with people that make me happy. You'll always find me with a smile on my face!
You spent a few days in New Orleans before departing for Paris, Normandy, and Caen. Did anything surprise you or interest you about each city?
Visiting a culturally enriched place like New Orleans was eye-opening. I loved the mellow vibe there along with the soul food. We spent Father's Day in New Orleans and got to see a parade. The National WWII Museum was so interesting and filled with artifacts. As for France, it felt like a whole different world there. Paris contained exquisite buildings and scenery. The people in Caen and the rest of the Normandy region were so welcoming to the Americans, which I loved and appreciated so much. The city of Caen had so much history and devotion to D-Day and WWII in general, which definitely surprised me. It's not very common to see such devotion to a foreign country. I got to learn a few words in French like "Bonjour!" (Hello!) "Salud!" (Bless you!), "Pardon" (Sorry), and "Merci beaucoup!" (Thank you very much!)
Describe one of your favorite day excursions.
Two of my favorite days were probably when we got to visit Pointe-du-Hoc, Omaha Beach, and the American Cemetery on our last day in Normandy. Pointe-du-Hoc had such beautiful scenery but was one of the most crucial and difficult places during the D-Day invasion. The history of the Rangers having to climb 100-foot cliffs was moving yet heartbreaking. Many lives were lost at Pointe-du-Hoc, but not like Omaha Beach. This historic site had so much destruction during the D-Day raid since we lost so many Americans at this particular place. I could nearly picture the war right in front of my eyes. One of the most amazing places we got to visit was the American Cemetery. I never realized how many American lives were lost in the war until we saw what felt like never-ending tombstones. I'm only mentioning a fraction of what we really saw; I could talk for hours about the places we visited since we got to see so much. We enjoyed every single moment of it.
What did you study in the college course?
Leadership was a large part of the class that I took. Students were given three topics and had to debate different scenarios. The class (which focused a lot on Eisenhower's power and actions) really taught me about what it takes to be a leader.
How many other students attended the Academy?
There were 33 students from all over the country and from different backgrounds. We all bonded and created a great friendship and still keep in touch through social media. I was able to make a whole new group of friends there. We were all a family out there!
Did you feel any different when you returned home?
It was definitely strange coming home and trying to get back into my routine (especially for sleep)! I also kept speaking the little French that I learned. After seeing so much devotion and admiration for America in a foreign country, I appreciate and love my country even more. I also grew even more respect for those that serve our country.
How did your POLAHS History classes prepare you for this trip?
POLAHS' classes definitely prepared me for this trip. Mr. Mora's AP World History class went into detail about the beginning of World War II, such as the causes and the destruction Germany was causing. Mr. Yourman's AP United States History class focused on America entering the war because of Pearl Harbor. Both classes taught me to enjoy and appreciate history along with how to handle the workload for the college class. I felt like I could succeed throughout the course of the Normandy Academy thanks to POLAHS' teachers.
What’s next for you?
This trip has pushed me to continue being a leader in my school and my community. I want to spread the knowledge I gained on this trip with as many people as I can. I plan on becoming a chemical engineer once I graduate from college, which wouldn't have been possible without all of the support from POLAHS' teachers and staff.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your trip donor?
I would like to thank her for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It has allowed me to learn so much and grow as a person. I would like to give back by spreading the knowledge that I learned from this trip to as many people as I can. Words cannot express my gratitude.