Gulf Coast High School student Mario Chang. Photo: Carol Joseph

Fifteen-year-old Florida sophomore Mario Chang, who is part Chinese, African and Peruvian, is also a budding Holocaust scholar.

According to NaplesNews.com, after visiting the Holocaust Museum & Education Center of Southwest Florida, Mario was so touched by what he saw, he wrote a letter about it and sent it to the museum, where he eventually became a volunteer and student spokesperson. 

“He definitely stands out,” says Amy Snyder, the Museum’s executive director, adding that it’s unusual to have high school students volunteer at the museum and even more unusual to have a student who is as committed as Mario.

According to Mario, the everyday message to be taken from the Holocaust boils down to bullying.

“I know that bigotry and bullying is still going on,” he tells Naples News. “I hear it mostly every day in school. And it’s just such a big part of our lives that something needs to be done about it.”

Last spring Dr. Wilson Bradshaw, the president of Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), heard Mario speak at a fundraising event for the museum. So impressed was he with this teenager’s gumption, he offered him a full four-year tuition scholarship: “We were very impressed with Mr. Chang. And here at FGCU, we like to take every chance to keep some of the brightest and best students here in our region.”

Mario Chang's Scholarship. Photo: Carol Joseph

I’m also impressed with how Mario’s personally taken on this cause and at such a young age. And that he appears to have no European ancestry in his mix, which means probably no personal ties to survivors or victims.

His instinct about bullying as the major lesson of the Holocaust as it relates to society today, seems so simple, and it is, but it’s also smart. I mean, think about it. Hitler was the ultimate bully. Per Merriam-Webster, a bully is “a blustering browbeating person; especially : one habitually cruel to others who are weaker.”

Mario told one of the Museum’s board members that if he didn’t stand up for a kid that was being bullied, then he was just as bad as the one doing the bullying. Surely something the “innocent” bystanders don’t want to hear, which is as true today as it was back in WWII-era Germany.

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