(Cjonline.com) - Last November, a group of talented Royal Valley middle school students in Mayetta, Kansas, Colin Caviness, Colin Everts and Luke Boyden began work on a documentary about Emma Darling Cushman — an American nurse who rescued thousands of Armenian children who had been orphaned during the genocide. When the Ottomans were expelling westerners from their territory after entering World War I, Cushman remained in Konya, Turkey, to continue operating a hospital she had worked at for over a decade. After the genocide began, she turned the hospital into an orphanage, found safe homes for endangered children and tried to bring shattered families back together.
As Boyden explained, this was extremely dangerous at a time when Ottoman forces were actively searching for Armenians: “Emma Darling Cushman is probably the bravest, kindest and most stubborn person we have ever researched. She stood up against an entire empire.”
Beyond the research that Caviness, Everts and Boyden conducted, they interviewed experts on the Armenian Genocide (such as Richard Hovannisian, founder of the Armenian Studies program at UCLA and adviser to the USC Shoah Foundation on Armenian Genocide testimony). They also spoke with Sara Cohan, an outreach and education consultant for the Armenia Education Program at USC. Caviness and Everts said the project taught them how inspiring and fascinating the study of history can be.
After they finished their video, Caviness, Everts and Boyden were rewarded for their effort to tell Cushman’s story — they received first place in the 2016 Discovery Awards held by the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes in Fort Scott. Beyond a $7,500 prize, the students’ documentary earned them the privilege of providing the inscription for Cushman’s headstone at the American Cemetery in Cairo. They chose “Emma Darling Cushman: A Light in the Darkness.”
Although the horror of the Armenian Genocide will stay with us, so will the work of a fearless American nurse who refused to abandon the people who needed her most.
Royal Valley Middle School students Luke Boyden, Colin Everts and Colin Caviness