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Four Greenway students bound for University of Maryland

Four Greenway students earned high marks in a state competition, earning them a spot at the University of Maryland for the national competition.

Jennifer Kitts and Mary Biggs won first-place in their Tennessee History Day individual projects, while William Coe and Mac Bower won second-place in their group project.

“It’s a lot of work. It really pushes them beyond what they normally do,” Liz Shugart, a social studies teacher at Greenway, said. Each National History Day project centered on a different topic in history, and the students said this year’s theme guided their topic selection.

“I wrote a historical paper on the tragedy and triumph on the school segregation in Clinton, Tennessee,” Biggs said. “I chose it because I’m really interested in the civil rights movement, and it seemed like it really related to N-H-D’s theme of ‘Triumph and Tragedy.’ I could also get a lot of resources on it because I could go to Clinton, see the school and talk to people.”

“I did mine as an individual performance, and I play a nineteen-fourties woman during World War Two who becomes a Rosie the Riveter,” Kitts said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do, so I started researching. I wanted to get a topic with a bunch of primary sources because that’s where you get your most interesting stories, so I didn’t want to do anything from the eighteen hundreds, and I thought that the Rosie the Riveter topic was a very good choice for our theme.”

Biggs and Kitts have competed three years in the History Day competition. This was the first year for Coe and Bower, so they decided to do a group performance.

“We did a group performance on the past fifty years of NASA,” Coe said. “We chose it because the theme for this year was ‘Triumph and Tragedies’ and there were a lot of triumphs and tragedies for NASA. Originally we were going to do our project on the Challenger tragedy but we couldn’t find enough resources for that.”

“So we decided to expand it to a broader topic about space exploration,” Bower said.

The students said they were excited about going to the national competition, and it will be a new experience for most of them. Biggs is the only one of the foursome who has previously been to the national competition.

“National competition obviously is on a much larger scale,” Biggs said. Her advice to the other three was to have fun.

“I think it’s important that when you are in Maryland and Washington D-C to do things other than the competition. Last year I got to visit the Smithsonian and do all kinds of cool stuff like that. It’s good to not only focus on N-H-D, but also to enjoy yourselves,” she said.

The students said those who place in the competition are given medals, and there are cash prizes given for specific achievements. But they said the money and awards weren’t the only reasons for competing.

“You understand what happened in history a whole lot better from looking at primary sources and focusing on one area that you are interested in,” Kitts said.

Biggs said, “All of the work is worth it. [I gained] a lot of knowledge, plus you learn how to do a historical paper or play.”

Bower and Coe said they learned a lot in their research for the project.

“Neil Armstrong saved himself with a ballpoint pen. I thought that was pretty interesting. So now he loves ballpoint pens,” Coe said. “The thing on his lift-off ship broke when he was on the moon, and he had to fix it with a pen. He would’ve died without that ballpoint pen.”

“I think it’s really amazing that today we’re going to the moon with the Russians to set up a moon base because during the Cold War our goal was to out-best the Russians,” Bower said.

The students will compete in the National History Day competition June 10–14 at the University of Maryland.


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