by SARAH NACHIN
HERNANDO SUN WRITER
Last week two local high school students - Abbie Kiser and William An traveled to Washington D.C. to compete in the National History Fair. Although they did not win at the national level, it was quite an achievement for them to make it to the finals.
Abbie Kiser had placed second in the state competition in Tallahassee in the Individual Exhibit category/Senior Division with her project entitled “The Black Swallow of Death.” It was the culmination of many months of research and work building her exhibit.
The project detailed the life of Eugene Bullard, the first African-American World War I flying ace. He flew with the French forces during the war.
“He seemed like an interesting person to research because not too many people had heard of him. He made huge contributions toward the war effort, but because of America’s racism, he was never recognized during his lifetime for those achievements. One of the criteria I have for my projects is that I want to actually teach the judges something and not just have a topic that has been covered multiple times,” Abbie stated.
Abbie who graduated this year from Weeki Wachee High School has competed in the local and state history fairs five times. This was her first year to make it to the national competition. She started her research in December and spent approximately twenty hours assembling her project board.
“I really didn’t expect to place at State and I was very excited about going to the national competition and having the experience,” Abbie remarked.
“I think it’s really important for people to participate in History Fair because it allows you to explore things that maybe you previously had no knowledge of. It’s important for people to know history and how we got here today. I would encourage anyone to participate,” Abbie concluded.
She will be entering Florida State University in the fall and will major in Behavioral Neuroscience.
William An, who will be a Senior at Springstead High School this year, won first place in the state competition in Tallahassee last month in the Individual Documentary/Senior Division. His documentary was entitled “Women in Revolt.” It detailed the class action law suit that women staffers at Newsweek Magazine brought against the publication in the 1970’s because they were not being promoted to writing positions.
“I noticed that Newsweek Magazine was publishing pieces on women’s liberation and yet they still had sexist practices within their company regarding hiring practices. I thought that interesting and ironic. Also, it’s really not talked about much today. The women at Newsweek were the first women in the media to launch a class action lawsuit for this,” William remarked.
He started his project in July of last year. It was a very challenging topic for him.
“There was only a handful of articles online about this subject. All of my resources I had to hunt down. I researched legal documents and also acquired letters from some of the women who worked at Newsweek during the time they were involved in the lawsuit. This allowed me to do much deeper research than if this information had been readily available,” William stated.
This is William’s sixth year competing in the History Fair. He has always done documentaries, which is the most competitive category at the state level. Like Abbie, this was William’s first time competing at the national level. He knew the competition was going to be a lot more intense, but vowed to present the very best project he could.
Besides excelling as a documentary filmmaker, William is also an accomplished poet. He recently went to New York City to receive a Scholastic Art and Writing award, the oldest and probably one of the most prestigious art and writing contests. His collection of poetry earned him a gold medal, the highest rating you can get.
Last week in Washington D.C. William won the Equality in History Award, the only person to win this particular award.
Both Abbie Kiser and William An represent the best of what Hernando County offers to the community, the state and the country.