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Barry Schrader
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I write this column for the following newspaper:

  • Daily Chronicle : DeKalb County Life

The Articles started December 2007.

 

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Students show appreciation for history

By Barry Schrader.................................March 24, 2009

Each winter for the past 47 years, Northern Illinois University and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency have sponsored a Regional History Fair, bringing together hundreds of middle school and high school students, plus their teachers and parents, to showcase their projects relating to some historical event, figure or place around the state.
This year, I was privileged to be a judge of the essays produced by some very talented young people from our part of the state. What a job trying to rank them as superior, excellent or good. There were 231 entries in the four categories – exhibits, essays, media and stage performances. There were some 350 kids from 22 schools who took part this year. I wish everyone reading this column could have seen the exhibits set up in the ballroom at the NIU Holmes Student Center as the variety and history being displayed was incredible.

Alyssa Shannon (left) shows her superior-rated display, titled “The Great Depression in Chicago.” Also pictured are Shannon’s friend, Angelee Radolff, and Hillary Einboden, gifted education coordinator for Genoa-Kingston schools. Barry Schrader – Daily Chronicle


Anne Petty Johnson, who coordinates the fair for NIU each year, said she felt this year’s fair was unique in that it featured a lot of local history from the students’ home towns or families and not just the usual famous people and places. A few projects I noticed were on the Midwest Museum of Natural History in Sycamore, Dr. John W. Ovitz Jr. and genealogies about famous ancestors in students’ families. I learned something from each display I walked by that day and have a better appreciation for the history teachers who take the time and trouble to motivate their kids to tackle these extra-curricular projects. It takes weeks of research and then another month or two to develop a finished project, whether it be a table-top display, research paper or on-screen media project.
Especially commendable in DeKalb County were Hiawatha and Genoa-Kingston school districts, plus St. Mary School. The teachers are Todd Johnson, Hillary Einboden and Ashley Wootton. Somebody tell their school boards they should get merit raises this year.
I don’t want to overlook the great science fairs many schools also hold, but I will have to attend one of those to heap more praise on our educators who go the extra mile for their kids.
I enjoyed talking with two middle schoolers from Hiawatha, Zach Murray and Zach Miller, who said they became interested in Orson Welles and his famous “War of the Worlds” 1938 radio broadcast. That scared the bejabbers out of half the country when Welles made people think the world was under attack by alien spaceships. Even though that broadcast was some 57 years before they were born, the two Zachs set up a spectacular exhibit that was rated superior and will go on to compete statewide and maybe even to the nationals in Maryland this summer.
I also got to chat with some of the girls from Genoa-Kingston who were surprised to learn that this old guy is a 1958 graduate of their school. They probably think I am ancient enough to contemplate a history project on me for next year – but I would refer them to Charlie Bradt or Hazel Swanberg, who really exemplify longevity. And the Hiawatha student who chose Dr. Ovitz of Sycamore for his “living history” project must have enjoyed his time talking with the good doctor who still has all his marbles, too. But even current personalities like Oprah and President Barack Obama managed to look historical in the students’ displays.

These youths deserve mentioning by name even though they are not basketball or football stars, so here goes: Rated superior from St. Mary School were Natalie Sheehan, Marc Dubrick, Jack Wheeler, Jaylene Thompson, Jennifer Gavin, Lauren Johnson, Tim Doyle, Alex Keller and Marissa Maeder. From G-K, the superior ratings went to Alyssa Shannon, Katie Hughes and Nicole Crozier. Ranking at the top from Hiawatha were Abby Turner, Don Giebel, Joe Crase, Lauren Leffelman, Zach Miller, Hannah Haak, Eduardo Canchola, Brandon Haluta, Neil Beach, Brittany Lutz, Bronwyn Burgweger, Amada Hamrick, Kim Schauer, Tim Cao, Diana Ascencio, Micaela Canchola, Eisa Garcia, Quentin Haluta, Marc Welc, Brenna Wascher, Emily Darling, Jordan Williams, Ricky Schumaker, Tyler Burger, Betsy Koehnke, Zach Murray, Dani Clark, Ashley Tamraz, Desiree Andujar, Ben Watson, Michael Klus, Kim Flores and Savannah Campbell. All the kids mentioned are headed to the state competition in Springfield on May 7, and some all the way to nationals in June for a week. So if they ask you for a few dollars to help them pay for their trip – please be generous.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115