Note to readers: Barry Schraders DeKalb
County Life column will appear every other Tuesday.
One of the highlights of my year is visiting the Regional
History Fair at Northern Illinois University because I am certain
to come away with some new historical knowledge about someone
or some event that I had never seen or heard about before.
This year was no different. Makenzie Hampton, an eighth-grader
from Kirkland, chose to tell the story of Diane Nash, a young
civil rights activist in the 1960s who was co-founder of the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and a major force in
the Selma Voting Rights Movement.
By doing some research online, I learned that Nash, now
76, refused to take part in the recent 50th anniversary commemoration
of the Selma march this year because President George W. Bush
was part of the event and she disliked his policies. So she missed
being in the march across the bridge.
Another entry that caught my attention was produced by
Burlington Central High School students Arielle Carani and Anna
McMahon. Their very timely exhibit covered the cold case file
on the murder of young Maria Ridulph in Sycamore in 1957.
Todd Johnson, the Hiawatha history teacher, always brings
the greatest number of students who win top awards. Among the
students he introduced me to was eighth-grader Travis Haak, whose
exhibit was about Stan Mikita and the invention of the curved
hockey stick. Travis said he is both a Blackhawks fan and hockey
enthusiast. Who would ever have thought of creating an exhibit
about a hockey stick?
These St. Mary Catholic School of DeKalb students
are some of the Superior award winners from the Northern Illinois
Regional History Fair last month. From left in front, their teacher
Samantha LeBouef, Jake Dudziak, Jason Klemm, Theron Koch, and
Eric Schultz. In back from left, Katie Steimel, Lara Anger, Grant
Goral, and Matthew Fleming. (Provided photo)Hiawatha High School history teacher Todd Johnson,
at right, discusses this display with Travis Haak who chose the
subject Stan Mikita and the curved hockey stick for his Regional
History Fair entry. It earned a Superior rating and will go to
state competition in Springfield. (Schrader photo)
St. Mary Catholic School of DeKalb came away with superior
ratings for eight of their 14 entries, which made their teacher,
Samantha LeBouef, very proud. She even rounded up all the winners
for a group photo, which she later emailed me. Some of her students
topics the history of Ollies Frozen Custard by Jason Klemm,
and the history of piano making in DeKalb by Katie Steimel.
Then there was Clinton Rosette Middle School sixth-grader
Maya Wallace, who won a superior for her entry on Second City,
the Chicago comedy club where comedians such as Bill Murray and
Tina Fey got their start; another good example of creative thinking
that most people would not identify as a significant part of
Illinois history. But the judges found Mayas presentation
very compelling and rated it superior, which made her eligible
to attend the Illinois State history competition this May in
DeKalb County students always capture an impressive number of
awards at state as well. But the discouraging part is that only
four schools in all of DeKalb County even participate in the
History Fair, meaning that hundreds of students miss out on the
opportunity to display their talents and possibly win trips to
Springfield and even the national competition that showcases
the best and brightest from the entire country.
Over the years I have extolled the virtues of students
participating in this extracurricular activity, but with little
success. So this time, putting my money where my mouth is, I
want to offer a $100 award to a teacher in DeKalb County schools,
other than those mentioned above, who will recruit and mentor
a student for the 2016 History Fair.
This means the teacher needs to contact me with the name
of a student he or she has selected. I can even offer a half
dozen local history leads that could be potential topics. This
award goes to the first educator to contact me. To learn more
about the History Fair and its guidelines, teachers can go to