Three students from Morse High School returned last week from a trip to France, where they took part in commemorations of the D-Day landings, 80 years after Allied troops stormed the beaches of France to turn the tide of World War II.

Hannah Keller, Isla Polizotto and Rose Strelneck traveled to France with their French teacher, Rebecca Deschaine, for a seven-day visit.

Morse High School students Isla Polizotto (left), Hannah Keller and Rose Strelneck pose with their award-winning mural representing the friendship between French and American artists that earned them a trip to France to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Brenda Fagan photo courtesy of Morse High School

While in France, the students were honored guests at both the binational ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and the invite-only international ceremony at Omaha Beach, which drew 25 heads of state, including President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“I think it was really eye-opening to be able to learn more about D-Day, especially from the French perspective, because we have been taught very little about it so far in our education,” Strelneck said.

Before the ceremony, the students and Deschaine met with a World War II veteran in the parking lot at the Normandy American Cemetery for the binational ceremony. He explained to the girls why he did the D-Day landing and said, “I did it for you, so don’t screw it up.” They did not catch his name, Deschaine said.

The girls won the all-expenses paid trip after entering the 2024 French American Friendship Contest with their mural painting. The contest’s goal was to show the friendship between France and the United States, and the students painted a mural to represent the friendship between French and American artists.

Deschaine said the French Consulate gathered all the artwork created for the contest and put it in a traveling exhibit at various consulates and the participants’ schools.

Included on the itinerary was visiting Juno Beach Centre, the 101st Airborne Museum and the D-Day Museum in Arromanches-les-Bains.

It was the first time Polizotto and Keller traveled outside of the United States. Keller plans to return to France after finishing her French language classes so she will be fully prepared for her next trip.

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