History knowledge on display

February 17, 2019

If it’s true that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, then Keller Bailey, 13, and Jason Benyouski, 14, are safe.

The boys were among a group of Warsaw middle schoolers whose project : a performance based on the civil rights activists the Freedom Riders : was shown Saturday at Ivy Tech Community College as part of National History Day in Indiana.

The project told the story of activists beaten in the South as they campaigned for civil rights for African Americans in the 1960s.

“It’s still going on,” Benyouski said. “People think about racism, and they think that’s over. It’s still going on.”

National History Day is a competition for students in fourth through 12th grades, and participants could submit posters, video documentaries, performances, papers and websites as entries. The Indiana Historical Society sponsored the local competition as part of seven similar events held around the state.

The society added a northeast Indiana competition for area schools two years ago after an influx of local entries, organizers said. This year, 270 students submitted projects.

About a third of those will compete at a state contest in April in Indianapolis. Winners there will go to a national competition in Maryland in June.

″(History) helps them better understand why the world is the way it is,” said Bethany Hrachovec, coordinator for National History Day in Indiana. “They can better understand the world in which they live.”

Exhibits filled a room at the college’s Coliseum Campus. Among the topics: the Columbine High School massacre, Nazi concentration camps, the Great Fire of London, the Marshall University plane crash and women’s suffrage.

“You get to learn bits and pieces of things you didn’t know before,” said James Gardner, who judged the exhibits and teaches at Howe Military Academy.

A trio of judges peppered Peyton Williams, 14, and Cordelia Grandon, 13, with questions about their exhibit on the doomed 1846 travelers the Donner Party.

The eighth-graders said they first wanted to study the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I.

Instead, they narrowed their focus and decided on the Donners, who left Missouri bound for California but were trapped, snowbound in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Some members of the group resorted to cannibalism to stay alive.

Peyton and Cordelia each said history provides opportunities to learn about the past and lessons than can be used to move forward into the future. “It’s very important that we remember that and we remember the consequences,” Cordelia said.