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Beyond Borders: Jalyse Ortiz's Award Winning Experience at Auschwitz

September 22, 2023

Image of Lalyse Ortiz holding the award

Beginning a summer internship may feel like a daunting task—especially while studying abroad. Luckily for Jalyse Ortiz, her family history classes at BYU prepared her well—so much so that she was recognized internationally for her extraordinary service.

Oritz spent the summer of 2022 drinking in Poland’s warm weather, rich history, and green countryside. In her free time, she would fill her mind with historical museums and her mouth with delicious Italian food. When she wasn’t exploring what Poland had to offer, Oritz worked at her internship with the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum.

At her internship, she input transcribed archives into a digital database—a task she was well prepared for with her background as a sociology major with a minor in family history. This work identifies those who were imprisoned in Auschwitz decades before.

Image of award receivers on the stage

Oritz found both the work and those she worked with to be equally enjoyable. "I really enjoyed those I worked with at my internship," recalls Ortiz, "[The organizers] were very welcoming, and I made lifelong friends."

Ortiz was so entrenched in her work abroad, but remained unaware that she would be awarded a year later with the "If not these ten. . ." award from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. It was only once she received a spontaneous email months later that she found out she was in the running for the award at all!

The award was presented during the museum's conference titled, “Tools from ‘here and now’ in teaching about ‘then’ - new technologies in education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust.” The event was held June 27-29, 2023. Ortiz and the other nine winners who volunteered their time and services were recognized at the end of the conference.

For Ortiz, this was no trivial moment. So much love was put into her triumph, by Ortiz herself, but also by individuals such as Jill Crandell of the Center for Family History and Genealogy, the Kennedy Center, and multiple travel grants.

Now that the excitement has settled, Ortiz anticipates graduating in December 2023. She currently works in the Center for Family History and Genealogy as a student researcher, where she was just recently working on a project linking together families to prevent cancer.

Oritz is grateful for her internship and how prepared her classes helped her to be. "I am able to take my skills out of the classroom and implement them in a professional setting" remarked Ortiz. Her plans after BYU include receiving genealogical accreditation and continuing to work in family history.

"My biggest takeaway," she says, "is to always put in your best effort and to work hard. You never know what will take place or the opportunities that will come your way."

Photo captions: Jalyse Ortiz receives the "If not for those ten..." award. Photos courtesy of Ortiz.