Vermont Academy students excel at Vermont History Day

SAXTONS RIVER — Vermont Academy students flexed their academic muscles on March 31 when they brought home awards and prizes from Vermont History Day, a state competition that took place at Spaulding High School in Barre.

Organized by the Vermont Historical Society, Vermont History Day provides middle and high school students from across the state with the opportunity to conduct research and produce projects related to an annual theme, which they submit to judging at the annual event. This year's theme was “Revolution, Reaction, and Reform.” Winners in each category qualify to represent Vermont at National History Day in the Washington, D.C., area in June.

Eleven VA students participated in the event, including local students Molly Brennan (Saxtons River), Craig Calhoun (Jericho), Madison Cota (Bellows Falls), Eamon O'Keefe (Walpole), Rachel Therrien (Alstead), and Salty Pennington-Fitzgerald (Putney).

While participants were able to submit projects ranging from websites to performances to documentary films, all VA students submitted historical research papers on topics related to Vermont History, which they researched and wrote over a period of two months. Students uncovered fascinating stories in their research, inquiring into topics such as the history of the Ku Klux Klan in Vermont, the Vermont Eugenics Movement, and the failure to build a Green Mountain Parkway in the state, among others.

At Vermont History Day, each student had an opportunity to meet with the judges for a short interview, in which they were asked questions targeted to their specific research project. All of the students enjoyed the chance to explain their topic in greater depth.

Thanks to their hard work, several VA students also won prizes in the competition. Therrien, a sophomore, won third place in the Senior (High School) Division for Historical Research Papers, earning a Superior rating for her paper on women's suffrage reformer Clarina Howard Nichols.

Pennington-Fitzgerald, a junior, won second place in that category with a Superior rating for his paper on the Westminster Massacre, and qualified to attend National History Day, and also won first place for the George F. Edmunds Prize for superior work on Vermont History. The Edmunds Prize includes an engraved medal and $350.

Calhoun, a junior won second place for the Edmunds Prize, which carries a cash award of $150 and an engraved medal. His paper explored the history of the maple sugaring industry in Vermont.

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