Groves student and her history teacher head to Normandy for prestigious WWII program

An incredible opportunity for a Groves High School student and her teacher. The duo has been accepted into an intense program studying World War II in Washington DC and France.

"It has a much bigger impact when you’re there and you’re experiencing it and you’re looking at it," said Erika Rice, a junior at Groves High School.

Meet 17-year-old Erika Rice, a self-proclaimed history buff who is about to go on a historical trip of a lifetime thanks to her teacher Geoffrey Wickersham.

"I cannot remember not loving history," she said. "I’ve been a reader forever."

This teacher-student duo is gearing up to fly to Washington DC in June, and from there, to Normandy, France, where they will join 16 other pairs as part of an intense, immersive program through the Albert H. Small Normandy Institute.

It is focused on World War II and D-Day, specifically -  the fallen soldiers.

"I think it’s really important to see the effects of policies and history on real people, and tell their stories," said her teacher Geoffrey Wickersham.

Wickersham has been teaching at Groves for 26 years and says when he learned about this unique opportunity, he knew although competitive, it would be an *unmatched* research and learning opportunity.

"She is just amazingly insightful, super bright and just extremely knowledgeable," he said.

In addition to keeping up with the demands of being a high school student, Erika makes time to study and research pages and pages of graduate-level material in preparation for their travels.

Thankfully, she’s got Wickersham’s support as he’s doing the same.

Lt. Carl Thompson

Lt. Carl Thompson

Most of their time is spent researching a late soldier, Lt. Cark Thompson, a Michigander born and raised in Birmingham.

"Erika picked him because I think she said that he was a handsome guy and we had a photo of him, and we didn’t have a photo of the other guys," Wickersham said.

Pictures, class photos, even news articles and relics of the past their research has been recovered. They’ve even connected with Thompson’s family.

"He was really close to his little sister and he liked jazz music and he worked in Detroit ," Rice said. "And then thinking about how many Lt. Thompsons, that had to go through all this stuff."

Already this journey has been an experience unlike she’s ever had.

"I’ve become a lot more of a pacifist," she said. "Learning about war has made me much more anti-war than i was before I started this project."