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2003 State History Day Award

State History Day Participation

Background and Details

For the 11th year the Friends participated in Minnesota's State History Day, providing prizes for the best senior and junior projects relating to immigration history. It was held May 3, 2003, at the U of MN; the contest had the theme this year of "Rights and Responsibilities in History." Judges for the Friends were Celeste Raspanti and Walter Anastas of the Friends Board of Directors. Here is information on the judging process from Walter. The winners are listed below.

Junior Division ($50 prize):

Winner: "They Took My Father: Rights of the North American Finns" Performance by Sarah Stone, Cyber Village Academy (Twin Cities Charter School)

Sarah did research at the IHRC, including interviewing Curator Joel Wurl at some length. Joel also lent her the video The Survivors, by Anita Middleton, the story of Anita's parents' experience as immigrants to Karelia, USSR (formerly part of Finland), during the 1930s to help develop the "workers' paradise." Sarah also corresponded with Mayme Sevander (recently deceased) and incorporated in the title of her performance the title of Mayme's book They Took My Father, on the experiences of her family and the other US Finns who were inspired to go to Karelia but ended up victims of Stalin's purges. [The Friends' judge was not aware of Sarah's research at the IHRC when she awarded the prize.]

Runner Up: "Inter Arma Silent Leges" (In War the Laws Are Silent); Display by William Johnston

Senior Division ($100 prize):

Winner: "Finnish-American Struggle with Individual Rights and Group Responsibility" Display by Ann Haataja, Katelyn Skoog, and Heidi Salmen - Menagha, MN, High School

By coincidence, the senior prize was awarded for another project, this time a display, on the same subject as that chosen by the junior winner. The girls, all of Finnish heritage, read Mayme Sevander's three books and interviewed her before preparing the tabletop exhibit that contained photographs, maps, and text.

Runner Up: "Hmong Means Free: Gen. Vang Pai's Attempt to Keep Hmong Rights" Video presentation by four students from the St. Paul Open School

Students are always invited to use the IHRC's resources for researching topics that involve immigration or immigrants. To find out about doing research for History Day, look at the research section of this website or contact the IHRC for more information. The History Day competition is a nationwide effort that began modestly in 1980 to encourage young people to take an interest in history. Minnesota's State History Day is cosponsored by the University's History Department and the Minnesota Historical Society.

State History Day: The Process

by Walter Anastas

As there were two categories of entries, Senior Division and Junior Division, we divided the judging duties between us. Celeste took the Junior High School Division and I took the Senior. [The Friends rule for prize-giving in this contest is to give preference to projects that deal with one of the 24 ethnic groups whose history is documented at the IHRC, while maintaining the highest standards for entry quality. So a project dealing with immigration/activities of members of any ethnic group could be a winner.
A problem we encountered was that the lists of entries we were given, although supposed to be limited to those dealing with history of immigration, were in fact not so limited. I suppose the people who put together our lists from the multitude of entries were themselves not sure and had to rely on guesswork based on the sometimes cryptic titles of the entries. So we started out with paring our lists down to those entries we really needed to look at. Then we parted company to first visit the media performances or video showings at their scheduled times, and then the "static" exhibits [and papers], which could be visited at any time.
We were finished just after noon, mainly because we had pared down our lists beforehand. Then we met again in the judges' room and filled out our form, on which we designated a "Top Choice" and an "Alternate Choice" for each of the Senior and Junior Divisions. By coincidence, we had the opportunity to view together the entry which was eventually chosen as the "Top Choice" in the Senior Division. I learned a great deal from being a judge. It was a very rewarding experience.


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