LOS ANGELES — Three eighth graders from Kansas have won the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes’ 2016 Discovery Award for their video about Armenian Genocide rescuer Emma Darling Cushman. The students and their teacher, Nathan McAlister, drew on the University of Southern California (USC) Shoah Foundation for support and resources to help their passion project come to life.
Colin Caviness, Luke Boyden and Colin Everts worked together to research and produce a 10-minute documentary film titled “Emma Cushman: A Light in the Darkness,” in McAlister’s seventh-grade history class at Royal Valley Middle School in Mayetta, Kansas last year. Their assignment was to research a historical figure who was an “unsung hero,” and McAlister said the boys were fascinated by Cushman’s story.
Cushman was an American nurse who worked in a hospital in historic Armenia and then refused to leave when the Genocide began. She found safe houses for countless orphans and then converted the hospital into an orphanage. She also served as Acting Consul of the Allies and Neutral Nations, overseeing millions of dollars in relief funds and prisoner exchanges.
Despite this lifesaving work, Cushman is to this day relatively unknown and never received official acknowledgment for her work. Her grave is unmarked.
The three pored over historical texts, online research materials and library resources to discover Cushman’s story. They also reached out to USC Shoah Foundation staff, Richard Hovannisian, Armenian Genocide expert and advisor for the Institute’s Armenian Genocide testimony collection, and Sara Cohan, Armenian education and outreach specialist, to be interviewed in the video.
Cohan has a personal connection to the story: her own family was saved by Cushman, and her great-grandfather worked with her in the hospital before he was killed in the Genocide.