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History comes to life at National History Day

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Triton Central students answer questions about their exhibit on the Little Rock Nine, which was the name given to nine black students who enrolled at Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., in September 1957. The high school had been all white up to that point and their enrollment came in the aftermath of Brown v. Board of Education, a Supreme Court ruling in 1954 that declared segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional.
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Aaliyah Turner, Makayla Slentz and Anastasia Stevens perform during Thursday’s National History Day at Triton Central High School. The three juniors gave a performance on spiritualism being exposed asa fraud in the late 19th century.

By ROSS FLINT - rflint@shelbynews.com

Aaliyah Turner, Makayla Slentz and Anastasia Stevens waited patiently as a pair of judges finished up scoring Melissa Myers’ performance Thursday afternoon.

When the judges were finished, it was showtime.

Turner, Slentz and Stevens took the stage – in this case a section of the Triton Central High School library – and gave their portrayal of how the fallacy of spiritualism in the late 1800s was revealed.

Their performance was part of National History Day at Triton Central, where about half of the student body competed for a chance to move on to the regional round next spring.

Under questioning from Turner, who was playing an investigative reporter, Maggie Fox, played by Stevens, copped to the truth about spiritualism.

“I do this because I consider this my duty, a sacred thing, a holy mission to expose spiritualism,” Stevens said in the performance. “I hope to see the day when it is entirely done away with, and after I expose it, I hope that spiritualism will be given the death penalty.”

Performing a skit was one option for juniors and seniors to choose from under the umbrella of this year’s National History Day theme of “Triumph and Tragedy in History.” They could also choose to write a paper, create a website, build an exhibit or make a documentary.

Most Triton Central students chose to build an exhibit and were available to answer questions from judges who walked around from table to table in the cafeteria.

“It’s designed for students to immerse themselves in history,” said Austin Hall, a teacher at Triton Central who is one of the organizers for the event. “It really is an enriching experience for all of the students, (who) are able to to learn and have a lot of takeaways from doing this project.”

Myers, who performed before the spiritualism group, gave an account on the assassination of President James Garfield from the perspective of his assassin, Charles Guiteau.

“I knew that God was definitely talking to me,” Myers said as Guiteau. “I knew He was calling me to kill Garfield.”

She later called Guiteau a “truly crazy killer.”

“He had something that truly wasn’t right with him,” she said at the end of her performance. “His decision to kill President Garfield was a tragedy that hit all of America.”

She decided to explore Garfield’s assassination after reading an article in her History class last year. And she was hopeful that she would move on to the regional round, which is scheduled for March 9 at Franklin College.

Triton Central is hoping to once again send students to the regional and beyond. The state competition is April 13 at the University of Indianapolis.

Two performance groups competed at the state level last school year, with one – Jonathan Riggins, Jared Brown, Silas Ratliff and Luke Sanders – performing “Cuban Missile Crisis: A Compromise Between Nations” – bringing home first place.

That qualified them for nationals. This year’s nationals is June 9-13 at the University of Maryland, College Park.