Students Now Caretakers of Internment Camp High school history students have pledged to take care of a historical site and tell the world what happened there. Thousands of Japanese-Americans were held outside the small town of Granada, Colo., in Camp Amache. The internment camp was closed Oct. 15, 1945.
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Students Now Caretakers of Internment Camp

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Students Now Caretakers of Internment Camp

Students Now Caretakers of Internment Camp

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is All Things Considered from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

Sixty-two years ago today near a little Colorado town called Granada, a World War II interment camp was closed down. Thousands of Japanese Americans had been detained at Camp Amache.

Today, some local high school students are restoring parts of the camp and researching its history. As NPR's Jeff Brady reports. They're telling others what they're learning.

JEFF BRADY: Camp Amache doesn't look like much today. The buildings are gone, but junior Riley Widener(ph) says look more closely and you'll see signs of the camp. The trees, for example, they stand out on the high plains.

Mr. RILEY WIDENER: And they're all stood nice - in nice, perfectly straight lines. But some of them are starting to die because of the drought lately.

BRADY: Widener says students tend to the trees, mow the grass, and keep tidy a small children's cemetery. But on the recent evening in Colorado Springs, he and his colleagues were thinking more about their presentation.

Mr. WIDENER: Good evening. My name is Riley Widener, and we are the Amache Preservation Society.

BRADY: The society, also, is a hands-on history class at Granada High School. Teacher John Hopper began the program about 15 years ago. He coordinates work at the camp and he drives students around the region for presentations like this one to the Japan-America Society of Southern Colorado.

Students say the camp was named in honor of the Native American wife of a local community leader. And they point out that there were more than 7,000 people in the camp, quite a lot considering they're only 500 people living in Granada now.

(Soundbite of archived speech)

President THEODORE ROOSEVELT: December 7th, 1921.

BRADY: The presentation includes a video with President Roosevelt's famous speech and interviews with Japanese-Americans who remembered the day the Pearl Harbor was bombed.

(Soundbite of archived speech)

Unidentified Man: We asked him. We thought, what the heck is going on? And that's how it all started.

BRADY: Toward at the end of the presentation, student Amanda Silva reads from a speech written by a valedictorian from the high school within the camp.

Ms. AMANDA SILVA: So in mindful of the search lights reflected on my windows, I sat down and tried to recall all the things that were taught to me in my history, sociology and American life classes.

BRADY: In the middle of World War II, this student wrote that she believed the U.S. is a country that learns from its mistakes. And she expressed hope the same would happen once the interment camps were closed.

Ms. SILVA: Do I believe this? Do my classmates believe this? Yes, with all our hearts, because on that faith - in that hope is my future, our future and the world's future.

(Soundbite of applause)

BRADY: These students hope their travelling presentation will encourage others to remember the internment camps. They also hope to encourage more visitors to come to the campsite in southeast Colorado. In the coming years, they plan to reconstruct several of the barracks and the guard tower that once occupied the land.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Denver

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