Friday, June 6, 2008

These kids make history easy

Student history buffs heading to the national contest for scholarships, cash awards are, at right, L-R: seated front Olga Ortiz and Mathew Buono, seated middle Javaughn Harris and Joseph Vaez, standing Jacquelynn West, Nyghel Byrd, Horeb Rodriguez, Donovan Wiggins and Dominique Jefferson. Team member Alejandro Esquivel is not shown.

By Alexandra Sanders
Special to the Register

Ten students from Metropolitan Business Academy of New Haven are headed to the National History Day Competition that will be held at the University of Maryland June 15-19.
For some, participation in National History Day might be just another school project, but for students at Metropolitan Business Academy, it’s also a way to make new friends. Many schools have sports programs in which students can socialize and meet new people, but the Metropolitan Business Academy does not. They build a sense of community through academic clubs and contests.
“They kind of grow together,” said Ann Brillante, lead social studies teacher and the students’ adviser.
The students chose to do either a paper, project, exhibit, documentary or performance, working in groups or individually. The 20 students who enter the district competition are narrowed down to 15 in the state competition. Finally, a lucky group of 10 students are chosen to attend the National History Day competition.
The advisers of the group are trying to raise $6,000 to cover room and board, food and travel for the trip. The students held a benefit dinner and project showcase on May 19, and they hope to raise more through candy bar sales and other events. Brillante said they are still trying to come up with ideas to make money in a hurry.
If they raise enough money to cover the total cost, all of the students who participated will be able to attend the conference, rather than just winners.
Brillante said the history program at Metropolitan Business Academy began small, but is growing fast. They added a new elective course called Research Methods and Historical Analysis as well as an after-school program where students can socialize while learning.
“Kids really showed enthusiasm in the club. They signed up with friends. It gave them a good home base for meeting with each other,” Brillante said.
Junior Jacquelynn West, 17, said she plans to become a neurosurgeon, but loves to study history, especially the 17th and 18th centuries, and believes the disciplines are complementary as they involve “digging and research.”
As for the upcoming competition, it will be “pretty exciting to be around people who have passion for history like I do,” she said.
Sophomore Nyghel Byrd, 16, who got involved in the competition because of his passion for graphic arts, said he caught the history bug.
“We didn’t think we could do it, but we made it,” he said, of heading to the national event.
At the competition, projects will be judged on quality and clarity of the presentation and adherence to the theme. This year’s theme is Conflict and Compromise in History.
Students who apply have the chance to receive full and partial scholarships, as well as specialized awards for the topic. The gold, silver and bronze medalists will receive $1,000, $500, and $250, respectively, with the exception of the gold medal senior division winner, who will receive the History Channel award of $5,000.
Competition winners are: West (2nd place, historical paper), Olga Ortiz (2nd place, performance), Byrd, Donovan Wiggins, Horeb Rodriguez and Alejandro Esquivel (2nd place, group Web site). Javaughn Harris (3rd place, documentary), Mathew Buono, Dominique Jefferson and Joseph Baez (3rd place, group documentary) will attend the competition as alternWhile participating in the competition, students will get a chance to explore Washington and visit attractions such as the Holocaust Museum and the National Museum of African American Culture. This will be some of the students’ first time at the Capitol.ates.

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