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Spokane woman meets students who will attend school named after her

Doug Nadvornick.Spokane Public Radio
Carla Peperzak on the stage at Ferris with Andre Wicks, the principal of Spokane's new Peperzak Middle School.

Carla Peperzak tells students about her life as a young woman in Nazi-occupied Holland.

It was quite a sight. Carla Peperzak, two weeks from her 99th birthday, fist bumping fifth and sixth graders who will be part of the first class at Carla Peperzak Middle School.

They were at Ferris High School to hear her story about living in Nazi-occupied Holland during the early 1940s. Peperzak spoke for about half an hour, then answered a few questions.

“The students in the schools should know about the Holocaust and so should the teachers so they can talk about it," she said in an interview before her appearance.

Peperzak's life story inspired the Spokane School District to name its new South Hill middle school after her.

“I still can’t believe it," she says, laughing. "You know, I’m just an everyday person and it’s overwhelming. It’s really overwhelming and it’s hard to get your arms around it.”

Peperzak says she used to give up to 40 talks a year about her experiences. Covid interrupted that, but now she says she’s receiving invitations again.

“She is one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met," said Andre Wicks, the principal of Peperzak Middle School.

“I’ve tried to take advantage of every opportunity to connect with her. We’d had lunch together a few times. I’ve gotten to meet all of her kids. It’s just a truly, truly priceless experience," he said.

Peperzak Middle School will be the last of Spokane’s three new middle schools authorized by voters during the 2018 bond issue to open its doors.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.