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TC students take aim at state history competition

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From left, Garrett Tingley, Trent Walters, Karstyn Hopkins, Jamie Pyle and Melanie Moore will be competing at Saturday’s state competition in their performance, “The Fight of the Century.”
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Sam McGivern, left, and Abby Roddy answer questions from Triton Central teachers in preparation for Saturday’s National History Day state competition at the University of Indianapolis.

By ROSS FLINT - rflint@shelbynews.com

FAIRLAND — If all goes well, some Triton Central High School students could be strolling through the University of Indianapolis Health Pavilion hallways dressed in their finest attire Saturday afternoon.

Fourteen Triton Central students advanced to this year’s National History Day state competition in four categories – paper, documentary, group exhibit and group performance – and because that night is also Prom, those who advance past the morning round could be returning to campus for the afternoon (and final) round dressed up in tuxedos or dresses.

“They’re going to look great for those second interviews if they advance,” advisor Laura Duncan said with a laugh Wednesday morning.

This is the third year that Triton Central has sent at least one student to the state competition. While 14 qualified, one group of three participants will be unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict. Last year, seven qualified.

“We like the trend of more and more students getting involved in National History Day and taking it seriously, and wanting to work on their projects more than what they do in the school building in order to take their project to district and hopefully advance to state,” advisor Austin Hall said. “And hopefully advance to nationals.”

Students are allowed to pick what topic they want to research and turn it into one of nine presentation formats based on a chosen theme. This year’s theme is “Triumph and Tragedy in History.” The other category options available are individual exhibit, individual performance, individual documentary, group website and individual website.

For Sam McGivern, the topic wasn’t an obvious choice until Duncan pointed it out to her.

McGivern comes from a lineage of women in her family who have served in the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Her mother, grandmother and great aunt all served, dealing with discrimination from other officers for being women all while fulfilling their duties in a dangerous job.

It wasn’t until she was talking about her family history that Duncan encouraged her to use her family’s story as her topic.

“I think sometimes the kids don’t think about their personal history being history,” Duncan said after McGivern and her partner for the project, Abby Roddy, presented their documentary to a group of teachers Tuesday morning in preparation for Saturday. “A lot of times the best projects are the projects they have a personal connection to. When Sam started talking I was like, you should totally consider doing that.”

Staff members interviewed McGivern and Roddy in preparation for the state competition on Wednesday. During the interview, McGivern said she hadn’t thought of her family’s story as being a part of history.

“When they tell these stories, it’s just sitting with Grandma, sitting with Aunt Alda, that kind of thing,” she said. “I never really thought of it as history. When it kind of turned into something bigger, it was cool to see.”

Afterward, Duncan laughed about getting credit for the idea.

“I think that was super generous,” she said. “They were simply talking. The hardest part I think for students is to select their topics. They throw out all kinds of crazy things during brainstorming (sessions).”

She said she has students do exercises to start looking for primary sources as a way to start bouncing ideas around.

“Sam started talking about her family. I was like, ‘Oh, I’m interested in hearing more about that,’” she said. “That’s always a good place to start, if other people are interested in hearing more about that. So then the girls kind of took off from there.”

She added she encourages students to choose a topic they’re interested in learning more about because they will be spending a lot of time on it.

During the interview with teachers, Roddy said that despite never creating a documentary before, they chose that format because it allows the judges to get a “more personal feel.”

“With a poster board, you can have a quote from the interview, but with this, you can actually show (emotion),” she said. “It’s good to see the facial expressions of the people you’re interviewing because that can really help show how they were either mistreated or not mistreated. It helps to show that and their personal side of it.”

McGivern also pointed out that she now has documentation on her family history that can be passed down to future generations. And she suggested it could be used by IMPD if the department became interested in the interviews the students collected.

“It’s really cool because now I have these videos forever,” she said. “If I have grandkids or throughout my family history, if any of my descendants want to look back on this it’ll be something really cool.”

The group of performers who will be taking their skit to UIndy are Karstyn Hopkins, Jaime Pyle, Melanie Moore, Garrett Tingley and Trent Walters. They chose the boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier that is referred to as the “Fight of the Century.”

With a group of five, including two males, the topic was a “perfect fit” with this year’s theme, Hopkins said.

“The topic definitely stood out in the time period, too,” Walters said. “It was a big deal. We figured it would be nice to do something that related to the time period.”

Walters plays Ali and Tingley portrays Frazier, while Pyle plays the role of an interviewer as well as the referee. Hopkins and Moore act as viewers from home who comment while watching the fight.

After the first competition at Triton Central, which qualified them for the regional round, the group made some changes in the performance to include a pre-fight interview. They also changed Frazier’s attitude after realizing through additional research that he was not angry after losing the first fight to Ali, but instead felt he hadn’t fought his best fight.

Their goal is to advance to nationals, which is scheduled for June 9-13 at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md.

In order to do that, Triton Central’s students will have to finish in the top two at the state competition in their respective category. There are a total of 550 students from across the state participating.

Fourteen Triton Central students advanced to this weekend’s National History Day state competition at the University of Indianapolis. One of the performing groups is unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict.

The students who qualified are:

Senior Paper

Andrea Robinson — “Progressiveness vs Aestheticism: The Hidden Battle of 20th Century Modernism”

Senior Group Documentary

Sam McGivern and Abby Roddy — “The Triumph and Tragedy of Women in the Indianapolis Police Force”

Senior Group Exhibit

Brooke Haney, Sam Gannon and Gabby Johns — “Lou Gehrig: ‘The Iron Horse’”

Senior Group Performance

*Anastasia Stevens, Makayla Slentz, Aaliyah Turner — “The Fox Sisters and the Birth of Modern Spiritualism”

Karstyn Hopkins, Jaime Pyle, Melanie Moore, Garrett Tingley and Trent Walters — “The Fight of the Century”

* Unable to participate due to a scheduling conflict