Whitwell, Tenn. is a small, rural town with population of 1,600 and where 67 percent live in poverty. There are no Jews, no Catholics and barely any diversity.

Principal Linda Hooper of Whitwell middle school decided it was necessary to teach the students of this small, homogenous town about diversity and tolerance. She therefore devised the Paper Clips Project.

At Fairfield’s 13th annual Holocaust remembrance service on May 1, Hooper spoke about the Paper Clips Project, which began as an after school project to study the Holocaust.

Hooper said the students had an idea to collect paper clips to represent the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust.

It was not until the project gained national attention that it really took off.

“After Dita Smith published an article in the Washington Post, we went from a couple hundred paper clips to about 24 million,” said Hooper. “Students began to see how very important the project was.”

The after-school program educated students about the Holocaust, especially when a Holocaust survivor who had spent three weeks in a railcar with 150 other people spoke to the class.

Hooper expressed the importance of community and the integral role of the Paper Clips Project in the community.

“Everyday we are making a choice; just by being in this room we are changing the world and our environment around us,” Hooper said. “We have to learn to reach out, not just to the person next to you, but to the greater community.”

People must take advantage of the lives they were given, Hooper said, and we should appreciate every moment we have alive.

“If you wake up today and you are more healthy than sick, you are better off than 5 million,” said Hooper. “If you have money in the bank, money in your wallet and some spare change, you are among the world’s wealthiest 8 percent.”

Hooper added, “Our school was just about as lily white as Fairfield University; there isn’t a Jewish person for miles.”

Students agree that our insulated community is similar to Whitwell’s as far as diversity. Therefore, attending students were moved by Hooper’s motivational words.

“A lot of people don’t take the time to think about the Holocaust because most people here aren’t Jewish,” said Caitlin Keeney ’08.

“It’s great that Hooper wanted to promote diversity in a town that had no Jewish people,” said Keeney. “Most of the students there had probably never even met a Jewish person before.”

Morgan Donahue ’08 said, “Linda Hooper’s speech was very inspirational and reminded us that it is possible for everyone to make a difference in the world.”

Jillian Ryan ’08 agreed.

“The service was touching. Hooper is extremely down to earth and uplifting.”

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