Friday, June 26, 2015

Students from Memphis, Lenoir City, Tellico Plains Win Top Honors at National History Day

Three Tennessee students - one each from Memphis, Lenoir City and Tellico Plains - received major national honors at the National History Day competition recently held in College Park, Maryland.

Tennessee medalists Donavan Powers, Ava Ploeckelman, Areej Malley, Autumn Ritsko, and Adebayo Fasipe at the National History Day Awards Ceremony. Not pictured: Madison Moats. Photo courtesy the Tennessee Historical Society.

Areej Malley of Pleasant View School in Memphis was recognized in three different ways. She won a bronze medal in the senior individual paper category and earned a four-year scholarship to the University of Maryland, the host of the annual event. Areej will also be Tennessee’s representative at the National World War II Museum "Campaigns of Courage: The Road to Tokyo" in December.

Areej has qualified for National History Day several times before. In 2013, she won a special prize for having the best entry on an international topic.

Madison Moats, who attends Lenoir City High School in Lenoir City, received the U.S. Constitution Award from the National Archives and Records Administration. “Anne Dallas Dudley,” her performance in the senior individual category, was recognized as the best entry to use federal government records to either illuminate the creation and ratification of the U.S. Constitution or to focus on constitutional issues throughout American history.

Autumn Ritsko’s website in the junior individual category, “Sakakawea: Her Life and Journey into History,” received the Corps of Discovery Prize, which is sponsored by the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation. This prize is awarded to an outstanding entry that best utilizes original sources to focus on the Corps of Discovery. Autumn attends Rural Vale Elementary in Tellico Plains.

History Day is a competition in which students prepare history-themed research papers, websites, exhibits, documentaries and live performances. The senior categories are for high school students and junior categories are for middle school students.

In all, 63 students represented Tennessee in the national competition. They developed their entries based on this year's theme: "Leadership and Legacy in History." All of those students were medalists in April at the Tennessee History Day competition organized by the Tennessee Historical Society and supported by the Tennessee Secretary of State's office and Humanities Tennessee..

In addition to the national prize winners, two students were selected to showcase their exhibit at the National Museum of American History. Maya Harris and Logan Miller presented their senior group exhibit to museum visitors. Maya and Logan attend Dyersburg High School in Dyersburg. Their project, “Red Tails Fight Red Bands Abroad and Red Tape at Home,” depicted the efforts of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II to overcome discrimination. Tuskegee Airmen Lt. Col. George Hardy, Lt. Col. Charles McGee, and Tech Sgt. Norman Artis, joined the students for part of the day.

Maya Harris, Lt. Col. George Hardy, Logan Miller in the Exhibit Hall at National History Day. Photo courtesy the Tennessee Historical Society.

“For many of our students, as well as for myself, getting to meet the Tuskegee Airmen was the highlight of the trip,” said Tennessee History Day coordinator Jennifer C. Core. “Maya and Logan’s project demonstrates what History Day is all about - getting close to the primary sources, in this case living veterans, learning about a particular time period, and interpreting the material for an audience. I hope that all of our participants have such an electrifying encounter with history and research.”

Jeremiah Branson, Justin Cross, Noah Dunlap, and Noah Watson of L&N STEM Academy in Knoxville were invited to attend a Congressional breakfast showcasing projects devoted to local history. Their exhibit, “‘Damn the Torpedoes! Full Speed Ahead!’ Admiral David Farragut Leads the Union Navy to Victory,” won second place at the state contest. This is their second trip to National History Day in that category of competition.

Three students were also recognized for having the best entries from Tennessee.

The prize for best affiliate (state) entry in the senior division went to Adebayo Fasipe, who attends McCallie School in Chattanooga. Adebayo was also invited to a writers’ workshop hosted by the Library of Congress. He toured the library with Dr. John Y. Cole, director of the Library of Congress Center for the Book, and met with Tonya Bolden, author of "Capital Days." Adebayo's research paper was titled, “Alex Haley, Roots, and the Re-Invention of Black History."

Ava Ploeckelman and Donavan Powers were ranked 12th in the nation for their documentary, “‘Solidarity Forever’: Pete Seeger’s Leadership and Legacy in American Culture and Folk Music.” They received medals as the best affiliate entry for the junior division. They attend Northeast Middle School in Clarksville.

Tennessee was also represented in the finals by Eli Neal and Lauren Graves of Powell. Their performance, “Nanye-hi: Beloved Woman of the Cherokee,” ranked 14th nationally in the junior group category. They attend First Baptist Academy.

The student-teacher team of Scott Moore and Whitney Joyner was selected to participate in the 2015 Albert H. Small Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom Student and Teacher Institute. They are scheduled to visit Normandy, France as part of the program. Scott attends Northeast High School and Joyner teaches at Northeast Middle School in Clarksville.

Two teachers were recognized as Tennessee's Patricia Behring Teachers of the Year: Sharron Thompson of the Thompson Family Homeschool Program in Tellico Plains and Hillery Griffin of Cosby High School in Cosby. Each received a framed certificate and $500.

Teacher Noelle Smith of Greene County Schools in Greeneville was named a Behring Ambassador Teacher. Smith has been asked to find ways to expand the role of National History Day in Tennessee. She will attend a training session in August and develop curriculum for Tennessee History Day teachers.

During their National History day trip, the students had the opportunity to tour the U.S. Capitol, meet with Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Bob Corker, and attend a private reception at the National Museum of American History.

“Once again, Tennessee was well represented at National History Day,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “It's gratifying to see students from all parts of our state participating in this competition and being successful. These students will be the future leaders of our state, so it's appropriate that they are becoming knowledgeable about the past as well.”

National History Day is an academic organization for middle and high school students that focuses on the teaching and learning of history. A recent study found that students who participate in History Day develop a range of college and career-ready skills and outperform their peers on state standardized tests in multiple subjects, including reading, science, math and social studies. About 7,000 students across the state of Tennessee participate in the program each year.

Read our press release for a complete list of awards and honors received by Tennessee students and teachers:

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

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