USF St. Petersburg hosts history fair

Pinellas County Schools held its national history day festivities at USF St. Petersburg’s Campus Activities Center on Feb. 20.

In its 14th year, Pinellas History Day had over 600 students involved. Students submitted projects including exhibits, plays and presentations.

“It’s wonderful how it turned out,” said Coordinator Alan Kay. “More schools than ever before won awards and are going to states … The staff at USF St. Petersburg was incredibly welcoming and supportive.”

Kay said the process takes months of planning with numerous people are involved. Groups from both the schools and USF St. Petersburg meet throughout the year, and communication becomes almost daily within a month of the fair.

“There are all kinds of coordination with parking and technology and 22 schools, both public and private,” Kay said.

Kay’s experience with the event spans 14 years in Pinellas County. He said funding is being cut and they are nervous how it will affect the program. Kay said the history fair helps students feel important and empowered in the community, while also rewarding their work and getting them excited for college.

Megan Wood, who teaches history at Baypoint Middle School, is in her second year of being involved with the program. She said the program is a positive opportunity for students to learn how to compete and also how to research and write research papers.

Wood’s students won third place for a group exhibit. She said another student from the school won an award for her documentary on Title IX, which targets gender equality in academic programs. It became mostly associated with sports.

“It’s a little tiring, but I can’t but help really get into it,” Wood said. “I’m happy. I won two different awards.”

Another winner was Johnalynn Gordin, who won for her performance telling the story of former British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain.

“I just felt that Neville Chamberlain was the hallmark of appeasement in a failed diplomacy,” Gordin said. “I was originally going to take the side that he was naïve and it was a big mistake. However, as I began reading, I realized how much of a humanitarian he was. I really feel like he should not have been treated like he was.”

Gordin worked on her project for almost a year.

“It’s been a very interesting experience,” Gordin said. “I’m glad to be here. It was a lot of hard work, a lot of research, a lot of patience, [and] a willingness to forgo a bit of my sanity.”

Student Rachel Salzman performed her interpretation of the events portrayed in the movie “Vengence,” about the terrorist attacks in Munich, Germany at the 1972 Summer Olympics. Student Mary Reischmann portrayed writer, political officer and archaeologist Gertrude Bell.

“[Bell] was stubborn and determined,” Reischmann said. “I think that’s how she was able to accomplish so much, because when no other woman was doing what she was doing, you really had to be determined.”

She enjoyed the project once she got started.

“Once you start researching and learning, it’s so interesting,” Reischmann said. “I don’t want to stop. As I do more research, I feel like I know her.”

Competition in the fair is open for students in grades 6 through 12. The history fair is part of Pinellas History Day, which is a local part of National History Day.

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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