One Norman Rockwell painting had enough influence to shape a History Day project for four Lake-Lehman students.
"The Problem We All Live With," by Norman Rockwell, depicts 6-year-old Ruby Bridges, the first black student to attend an all-white elementary school in New Orleans in 1960, as she walks to school. Surrounding little Ruby are four U.S. Marshalls, whose heads were left out of the painting.
The students displayed the project, called "Building Bridges: Empowering Racial Harmony," at the regional History Day competition at the Penn State Wilkes-Barre campus in Lehman Township on March 24.
"We just loved it," said 15-year-old Emma Evans, of Lehman Township. "It was very inspiring."
Evans and fellow 15-year-olds Mandy Scavone, Julia Pilch and Emily Crawford designed an exhibit to tell viewers – and judges – more about Ruby Bridges' plight during the Civil Rights Movement.
"She was really brave," Pilch, of Shavertown, said of the painting's subject. "She was only six. When people told her to go away, she prayed instead of getting angry."
The theme of this year's History Day contest is "Revolution, React, Reform in History," and the girls from Lake-Lehman thought Bridges' story was nothing short of revolutionary.
The rules of History Day allow students to choose from a few different mediums to display their topic. Some choose exhibits, others pick performance, some can build websites, while others create documentaries to get their points across.
Several of the 55 Lake-Lehman students who participated in the contest chose documentary, while 16 participating Dallas students chose several different mediums to present their historical findings.
The Back Mountain area students were part of the competition that included 213 students from 17 school districts located in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Seventeen-year-old Jeremy Peters and 16-year-old Mike Podskoch, both of Dallas, stood nervously outside a technology classroom where other students were showing their documentaries on Saturday.
They made a documentary called, "The New Deal: A Revolution in Government," which featured 1930s photographs of men holding signs to find work, people lined up outside various buildings and other Depression-era images, with narration from both students.
"I've always had a fascination with 1930s and 1940s history," said Peters. "The New Deal can't be applied; you have to show it. We thought the photographs and music would invoke emotion."
Despite having a background in the subject, Peters was not prepared for the competition and judging process.
"I've been to History Day before but did not compete," he said. "It's interesting. I'm a little bit nervous. I didn't expect this many judges – maybe three or four, not, like, 12."
Back in the exhibit part of the competition, veteran History Day competitor Peter Kuritz, 16, of Shavertown kept his partner, 14-year-old James Rinehart of Dallas, from getting nervous.
The pair designed an exhibit about Otto von Bismarck, first chancellor of the German Empire.
"He talked more about diplomacy than war," Kuritz, who has participated in History Day three times, said of his project's subject.. "I thought it was interesting how he unified Germany to become a central power, a strong power."
Rinehart was most interested in the creation of Germany.
"Germany wasn't just one country," he said.
"But one man unified the whole country," added Kuritz.
At the end of the day, a group of Lake-Lehman students won a Best Overall Local History Award for their performance entitled "Coal Mining in Northeast Pennsylvania: Its Reign Over the Economy and People of the Area." Lake-Lehman also took first place in the Senior Division for the Outstanding School for the 13th year in a row.
Thirteen projects earned a first, second or third place award, which is a record number for Lake-Lehman. Twenty-two students from the district will move on to the state competition, to be held May 4 and 5 at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg.
One student from Dallas High School, Peter Shaver, won first place for his individual research paper and will be attending the state competition.
First place, Group Exhibit: Thomas Boyle, Sarah Bedford (Grade 11), for their project entitled "Ida Tarbell: Taking on a Tycoon."
First place, Individual Exhibit: Lindsay Williams (Grade 10), for her project entitled "Title IX: The Education Amendment that Altered Athletics in America."
First place, Individual Documentary: Jason Patterson (Grade 10), for his project entitled "Red Rising: The Story of the Russian Revolution of 1917."
First place, Group Documentary: Ashley Jackson, Megan Davis (Grade 11), for their project entitled "Jacob Riis: Shedding Light Into Dark Places"
First place, Individual Performance: Courtney McMonagle (Grade 10), for her project entitled "The Polish National Catholic Church: Their Reaction, Revolution, and Reformation."
Second place, Group Documentary: Anna James, Brittany Faux (Grade 10), for their project entitled "Smallpox: Elimination by Vaccination."
Second place, Individual Historical Paper: Shelby Foster (Grade 12), for her project entitled "From Air to Bread: The Haber-Bosch Process Feeds Multitude of Millions."
Second place, Group Exhibit: Hannah Cross, Sela Fine, Shauna Leahy (Grade 9), for their project entitled "Mirabal Sisters: Dying for Reform."
Second place, Individual Documentary: Lauren Macmullen (Grade 9), for her project entitled "The Boys Come Home on the Small Screen: How Television Shaped the Vietnam War Era."
Second place, Group Performance: Jenna Mortenson, Sara Tronsue, Jasmine Moku (Grade 9), for their project entitled "Coal Mining in Northeastern Pennsylvania: Its Reign Over the Economy and People of the Area."
Third place, Group Documentary: Nicholas Egan, Alexander Hoyt, Christopher Herrick (Grade 10), for their project entitled "Strip Mining: One Accident, One Change, Generations of Reform."
Third place, Individual Historical Paper: Kristen Boyle (Grade 12), for her project entitled "Amnesty International: Igniting the Flame of Freedom."
Third place, Individual Documentary: Rachael Hohol (Grade 11), for her project entitled "The Cubist Revolution: How Picasso and Company Changed Painting."