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Three local historians take top state honors

Three local youths took top honors in their respective divisions in the Annual Tar Heel Junior Historian Convention and Contests earlier this year.

Alex Pell took first place in the intermediate division, Tar Heel Junior Historian Fall Magazine prompt. Alex’s article on musician John Coltrane will be published in the Tar Heel Junior Historians Fall 2021 Magazine. This is the first year the club has submitted an entry for this category.

Andrew Edwards took first place in the intermediate division, video documentary. Andrew’s project was on the Burnside Expedition, a series of engagements on the coast of North Carolina during the Civil War. Andrew took a unique and humorous approach to his video, by having the history of the expedition told from the perspective of Burnside’s sideburns.

Paytin Key took first place in the elementary division, exhibit/visual art. Paytin created a scrapbook about the history of White Sulphur Springs.

For the second year in a row, the in-person component of the annual gathering, usually held at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, was cancelled due to COVID-19. The projects submitted from all of the chapters across the state were still reviewed and judged, and the Tar Heel Junior Historian Association livestreamed the convention activities for students and released a video acknowledging the winners for 2021.

As has been an annual custom, members of the Jesse Franklin Pioneers, which is the local chapter of the Junior Historians, entered and won several awards. The local club was significantly smaller than in previous years, with nine students from elementary, middle, and high school. The club is comprised of Millennium Charter Academy, Surry County Schools, Mount Airy City Schools, and homeschool students.

The students worked from September until March to complete individual and group literary, video, photographic, exhibit, and scrapbook entries with documented research. The winning entries will be on display in the History in Every Direction: Tar Heel Junior Historian Association Discovery Gallery at North Carolina Museum of History for the next year.

The Jesse Franklin Pioneers chapter, begun in 2006, is part of the state-wide organization created by the state legislature in 1953 to promote youth interest and involvement in state and local history. Thousands of fourth-twelfth graders participate in nearly 200 clubs in 65 counties. The program is run by the state history museum which hosts about 350 students at the conference each year. The local club has won multiple awards in its 15-year existence including chapter of the year, advisor of the year, and many group and individual accolades. The Mount Airy franchise of Chick-fil-A has been the club’s business sponsor for several years.

The club will spend the summer working on service projects and teaching visitors about history through demonstrations at the museum or at outreach programs. Club meetings will resume in September and are held every Thursday afternoon during the school year for students fourth grade and up. Call or email Justyn Kissam, director of programs and education, at 336-786-4478 x 228 or for more information.



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