DURYEA — A handful of Holy Rosary School students’ knack for learning history has put them in the record books.
Fourteen-year-old students Evan Gedrich, Louis Galli, Zachary Sulima, Ken Francis and 13-year-old Mark Ranieli recently vied to place in the 42nd annual Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest, held June 12-16 at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland.
The five former eighth grade students are the first in Holy Rosary School history to participate on the national level.
“For now, I think I’ll say we won’t be unbeatable, but we’ll be invincible for a little while at this school,” said Gedrich on the accomplishment.
At Holy Rosary School, eighth graders competed by choosing either a history or science project to present. The theme of this year’s competition was “Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History.”
The boys’ presentation was on the MS St. Louis, a German ocean liner most notable for a single voyage in 1939, in which its captain, Gustav Schröder, tried to find homes for 908 Jewish refugees from Germany. After they were denied entry to Cuba, Canada, and the United States, the refugees were finally accepted in various European countries.
Instead of just talking about their project, the students researched various characters to portray and decided to create a group performance.
“You could do many things,” said Galli. “You could so a board where you present a bunch of pictures or you could do a play, and we wanted to do a play.”
“I think it was just easier to convey the message,” added Francis.
After the school competition, the boys went to a regional competition, followed by a state competition, winning first place at both.
Because they won at the state level, they were qualified to compete at the national competition along with 90 other different groups from the around the country and the world including China, Korea, Puerto Rico, South Asia and others.
Landmark Community Bank and its employees donated funds to help pay for the boys’ expenses during the trip.
History Moderator Jenifer Snyder said a tradition at the event is for students to exchange buttons with logos representing their state or country.
“They got to exchange pins, Snapchat and talk with all the pretty girls,” joked Snyder.
The boys said they became good friends with students from North and South Carolina.
The students presented their project on the first day of competition and did not get a chance to participate in the second round. According to a press release from National History Day, “less than 1 percent” of projects make it to the national level.
In the boys’ category of Junior Group Performance, 10 projects performed by students from Massachusetts to New Mexico took top honors.
With the competition behind them, they boys are preparing to enjoy their summer vacation before going to high school.
Gedrich and Francis will attend Holy Cross in Dunmore while Galli, Sulima and Ranieli will attend Pittston Area.
Snyder said she hopes that the boys’ accomplishments will encourage the other Holy Rosary School students to strive for the same success.
“I think there’s an interest now in National History Day here at Holy Rosary,” she said.
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher