Sam Cooke may not have known much about history.
But Staples High School students sure do.
Working in teams and individually, 18 of them took 13 out of 27 places at the recent Connecticut History Day state contest. As any math student knows, that’s nearly 50% of the total.
There were 3 first place winners, in 9 categories. And the Westport students swept all 3 places in the “Senior Individual Exhibit” category. This year’s theme was “Communication.”
Historical footnote: Two students earned Special Prizes.
First place winners included:
- Ishan Prasad: “Movies for the Masses: Bollywood and the Forging of a National Identity in India, 1950-1965”
- William Jin and Michael Nealon: “America’s Key to Understanding: How Uncle Tom’s Cabin Communicated Abolitionist Ideals and Changed the Lives of Millions”
- Hannah Fiarman: “The Freedom Rides: Communicating Injustices in Interstate Travel for a Key Understanding of Crucial Change”
Placing second were Nikos Ninios, who researched the Daughters of the Confederacy; Lily Klau and Olivia Stubbs (“Barbie: More Than Just a Doll”); Zachary Brody (cigarette advertising in the 20th century); Jeffrey Pogue (Thomas Paine) and Sarp Gurdogan (The Chicago Defender newspaper).
Finishing third: Franca Strandell, Camille Vynerib and Juliet Tracey (Frank Capra and World War II propoganda); Rebecca Schussheim (Ida Tarbell); Franky Lockenour (Ms. Magazine); Coco Kaska and Karlie Saed (freedom songs in the civil rights movement), and Matthew Gatto (the Pentagon Papers).
Sebastian Miller was awarded a special prize for understanding military history for his project on the Civil War Balloon Corps, while Pogue’s won the George Washington Leadership in History award for “Thomas Paine: The Most Influential Man in America.”
Pogue’s project exemplifies the depth and creativity of the Stapleites. Entering in the Solo Performance category, the sophomore devised a 10-minute mini-play, set in a tavern — immediately following Paine’s funeral. Pogue played all 4 characters: Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Benjamin Rush and John Adams (not a Paine fan). Each gives a tribute to the revolutionary pamphleteer.
Click below to view Pogue’s presentation. You won’t be disappointed. And you’ll learn a lot.
Congratulations to the insightful, clever and hard-working Staples students — and their superb teachers: Drew Coyne, Nell-Ann Lynch, Cathy Schager and Kelly Zrenda.
PS: Pogue submitted his entry by video, because of COVID. But when he and his fellow History Day winners head to the national competition this fall, he’ll perform live.
A US championship? That would be historic!