For immediate release | June 7, 2022

Saint Marys (Penn.) Area Middle School Wins ALA’s 2022 Jaffarian Award for Empathizing with Teens in Trauma: Terezín/Theresienstadt Museum Project

CHICAGO — The American Library Association (ALA) has awarded its 2022 Sara Jaffarian School Library Program Award to Saint Marys (Penn.) Area Middle School for their program, Empathizing with Teens in Trauma: Terezín/Theresienstadt Museum Project.

The $5,000 Jaffarian Award, supported by ALA’s Cultural Communities Fund, recognizes excellence in humanities programming in school libraries that serve grades K-8.

The Terezín/Theresienstadt Museum Project, ongoing at Saint Marys Area Middle School for over six years, involves students in researching the artwork, poetry and music created by teenagers in the Theresienstadt/Terezín Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Each student selects a piece and researches the history of the camp and the story of the teenager who created the work. A final presentation is created by the students to share their personal responses to the trauma that the teenagers in the camp faced.

This past year, research and presentations were complemented with a lesson from the school social worker on how art and music can help people cope with stress and highly emotional situations. Students also watched the film “The Defiant Requiem”, a documentary highlighting the courage of a young Czech conductor imprisoned in Terezín who taught fellow prisoners Verdi’s Requiem. Students were then joined by the composer of the film, Murry Sidlin, via Zoom for a discussion and Q&A.

“Through the process of engaging in this humanities programming, we are able to allow our students to not only engage with the content, but connect with their mental health,” said Librarian Ellen Stolarksi. “By bringing in our social worker to the program, it has been reported that students who didn’t normally come to her office would come to her requesting more techniques.”

This year’s Jaffarian Award Committee was chaired by Phoebe Warmack, director of the William H. White, Jr. Library & Reynolds Family Learning Commons in Woodberry Forest, Va; Blake Hopper, school librarian, Tazewell-New Tazewell (Tenn.) Primary School; Ericka Brunson-Rochette, community librarian, Deschutes Public Library, Bend, Oreg.; and Valerie Byrd-Fort, instructor at the School of Information Science, University of South Carolina.

“The Award Committee was immediately drawn to the emphasis Saint Marys Area Middle School put on creating a multi-dimensional learning experience that promotes empathy, creativity and compassion amongst students,” said Ericka Brunson-Rochette, Jaffarian Award committee member. “By intersecting Holocaust curriculum with trauma-response, this program uniquely ties together history, art and mental health education in a powerful and impactful way.”

The Jaffarian Award is administered by ALA’s Public Programs Office in cooperation with the American Association of School Librarians (AASL).

Applications for the 2023 award will open in February 2023. Application information, award guidelines and a list of previous winners are available at

To stay up to date on award and grant offerings from ALA’s Public Programs Office, sign up for ALA’s Programming Librarian newsletter.

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Hannah Arata

Communications Specialist

American Library Association

Public Programs Office