Students from Cedar Heights Middle School have been crushing the competition lately as more than a dozen kids placed in three different academic contests.
Most participated in the regional History Day competition, while another student won an essay contest and a pair of girls showcased their artistic abilities”
Steven Weier, an eighth-grader at the school in Clvington, took first place in the Jacob Friedman Holocaust Writing and Art contest with his essay on the topic “Can We Learn From the Stories of Holocaust Survivors?”
Sylvia O’Brien, who teaches at Cedar Heights, said the Friedman contest is sponsored every year by the Washington State Holocaust Center.
“This year there were over 800 entries from over 70 schools in the state,” O’Brien said. Weier was formally recognized on May 4 at the Holocaust Remembrance Day program on Mercer Island, where he read an excerpt from his essay and met Holocaust survivors.
Weier focused on five main lessons based on books he’s read and research he’s done during the school year.
“Family is the most important thing,” Weier said. “True happiness can be attained by simple things. Make the best of what’s available. Keep up hope. And the last one is the most important: Indifference can be just as detrimental as enmity, racism or prejudice.”
He wrote the essay for a class assignment and said that final lesson was something he learned directly from a survivor, so it really hit home.
Weier’s teacher told him two weeks ago that he’d won the essay contest for his age group.
“I was completely in shock,” he said. “It’s just nice to finally see something I put a lot of work into pay off.”
Literally pay off, too, since he won a prize of $200. But he’s not going to blow the cash on a new video game or iPod.
“My brother keeps saying he deserves half of it for going to the ceremony,” Weier said. “His birthday is coming up, so I may spend a little more on him than he did on me.”
On May 16, his brother Ryan, will turn 12. Weier turned 14 in April.
The money was a nice incentive, though, as Weier said he will probably enter the contest next year when he’s a freshman at Kentlake High School. Maybe he’ll pick up another $200.
Other Cedar Heights students didn’t get big cash prizes, but they were excited to see their work win.
Seventh-graders Raquel Cummins and Jackie Merrill paired up for their History Day project which took first place in the regional competition and fourth place in the state.
Social-studies teacher Justin Maier explained that the National History Day Contest is open to students in sixth through 12th grades and “provides teachers with an innovative teaching tool and fosters students’ enthusiasm for learning.”
This year’s theme was “Conflict and Compromise in History.” Cummins and Merrill focused on the attack on Pearl Harbor for their project.
Cummins said Merrill has been to Hawaii and seen the Pearl Harbor Memorial, but Cummins didn’t really know much about the historic event. The pair decided to build a Web site to show off the research “because you can use more words and we didn’t want to do something everything else was doing,” Cummins said.
Neither of them had built a Web site, but Merrill’s father is good with computers, so they knew where to get help. After putting in more than 40 hours of work during three months on the Web site, the girls learned a lot about the Pearl Harbor attack. They took quotes and other bits of information, put them in six specific categories on the site thanks to a suggestion from a teacher, which allowed them to simply and effectively get the point across while keep it organized.
“We used Weebly. It’s a free web design site,” Cummins said. “It gave us background and linked everything so all you had to do was add the titles and the information.”
The site, “Entering the Conflict of Pearl Harbor and the Compromise of World War II,” never went live on the Internet. Instead, they built it and burned it to a disc so that it could be viewed like a document and sent it off to the judges.
“I didn’t expect to win,” Cummins said. “They announced our names (at the ceremony). I was really surprised.”
Cummins said not only did she learn about Pearl Harbor, but in the process she learned how to work on a big project over a long period of time with a partner and stay focused on getting the job done.
And it was a good way to practice public speaking since they had to present the project to a panel of judges.
“It’s hard not to freak out while you’re doing it,” she said.
The icing on the cake was Cummins and Merrill got an A on the project.
Stephanie Stuckey and Emily Opheim, both eighth-graders, placed third and first respectively in the 2008 Kent Police Department’s Drinking Driver Task Force poster contest.
Stuckey has always been drawn to creative expression. In addition to drawing, she likes to sing, act and play flute in the school band.
She first started drawing with her aunt, who is an artist, when she was a little girl. “I’d say I’m pretty artistic,” Stuckey said. “I can draw pretty well.
She participates in the school’s leadership program (Healthy Choices/Game of Life), and January Parks-Agnew, the school counselor, suggested Stuckey submit an entry to the poster contest.
She used markers and pencil to draw a car driving the down the road with a speed limit sign visible contrasted by the speedometer showing the driver going much too fast. The slogan “Don’t Push It To The Limit” was incorporated into the poster.
This was the first contest she’d ever entered, but Stuckey said she’ll enter more in the future since having her work recognized provided a big confidence boost.
Opheim’s poster showed a broken vodka bottle with liquor dripping from it and a car crashed in the background. “I drew it and colored it in with colored pencils,” she said. “It took a day, maybe two.”
Her entry was an assignment for art class. When Opheim found out she won, she was called down to the main office. “I was like, ‘Am I in trouble again?’” she said.
She was surprised to learn she had won. “I was just like, ‘Whoa!’” Opheim said. “I definitely didn’t think I was that good at drawing.”
Like Stuckey, a relative inspired Opheim to start drawing early in life.
“My brother, Zach, would come home and show me what he’d drawn and I would try to draw the exact same thing,” she said.
Both her older brothers were excited for her when she announced she had won the contest.
“I came home and showed my parents and they were like, ‘Oh, my gosh,’” she said. “My brothers gave me a pat on the back. My family been very supportive.”
Opheim hopes that her poster might get through to someone.
“I see accidents on the news,” she said, “and I think, ‘People need to see my poster.’”