The middle school participated in National History Day, with students giving presentations on past events.
It started with a girl in a black wig, wearing a white robe made out of a bed sheet, with a hand-painted picture of a pyramid in the background. Then student Dieannera McClain launched into her 10-minute monologue about Cleopatra.
McClain was performing her monologue, which she had written herself, as part of Sarasota Middle School’s National History Day competition. The competition, which was held Jan. 29, allowed students from sixth to eighth grade to make presentations about an event in history, which happened 20 or more years ago, which fit the theme of Tragedy and Triumph.
It was all part of an effort that leads up to a national competition in June at the University of Maryland. In the past few years, students from the National History Day competition at SMS have gone on to compete nationally.
The students were allowed to write performances, like McClain, as well as make websites, exhibits, historical papers and documentaries.
The students were led by Jennifer Jaso, a history teacher at SMS, who started the program six years ago at the school.
“They get so much more confident, and they leave middle school so much more prepared. Students who are reading at a (low level) can do this project and learn so much,” Jaso said.
Volunteers and teachers judged the competition.
Casey Lorenzo, an intern at Sarasota Middle School, said he volunteered to be a judge because he saw the students all the way through the process.
“Every single one of these students goes above and beyond what their teachers help them with,” Lorenzo said. “This just instills a love for history and the importance of it. All of these students have the drive to go to states and nationals.”
Students covered broader topics, including the Crusades, space shuttle launches and historical figures.
SMS students Olivia Vafeas and Danielle Kruk created an exhibit on Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the women’s rights activist.
“Everyone knows about Susan B. Anthony, but not everyone knows about Elizabeth Cady Stanton,” Kruk said. “She impacts the rights movement so immensely. We want to be just like her. She did a lot of work and never stopped when people said no.”
Natalie Richard created an exhibit on the Rosewood massacre, in which a town located near Gainesville was burned and pillaged after a claim made by a white woman saying a black man sexually assaulted her.
Richard went to what remains of Rosewood and took pictures and met with Gary Moore, a St. Petersburg Times reporter. Moore was the first researcher to bring the history of Rosewood back into the conversation regarding civil rights history.
“I liked doing the research and meeting Gary Moore,” Richard said. “I got a great opportunity to tell a great and sad story.”
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