Students heading to DC after sweeping history contest


Back row from left, Sam Benedict, Jack Schrepferman, Jonah Christensen, and front row, Stuart Buttars and Sam Clayton. (Photo by Heather Lusk)

By Heather Lusk

Five Zionsville Middle School students will head to Washington, D.C., in June to compete in the National Contest for National History Day after nine students medaled at the state level, sweeping the Junior Documentary category.

A documentary chronicling the history of Crispus Attucks High School created by eighth graders Sam Benedict and Jack Schrepferman won first place at the state event May 6 at the Indiana Historical Society.

“Originally our focus was on the basketball team,” said Benedict of the first all African-American school in the nation to win the state championship. Researching further he and Schrepferman learned the Indianapolis school was originally built to segregate black students from white students and their focus shifted beyond sports.

“We didn’t know how much history and how influential the school was that is 25 minutes from here,” Benedict said.

Schrepferman had an interest in the team after viewing the premiere of a professional documentary about the school.

“It was always in the back of my mind,” he said.

The second place team of ZMS eighth graders Stuart Buttars, Jonah Christensen and Sam Clayton developed a documentary about rotary jails.

“Of the 18 (in the country) only three were preserved and the only one that rotates is in Crawfordsville,” Buttars said.

Prior to the national competition in June, students are able to adjust their presentations based on judges’ feedback. Benedict and Schrepferman have made a few alterations and were able to incorporate Crispus Attucks High School’s 2017 state championship win into the film.

“As we looked into it, there’s just so much more to it than a sports story,” Benedict said.

More than 5,000 students across the country participated, with 450 competing at the state level in Indiana this year.

The program encourages students to learn about history through project based learning. “We want it to be a positive learning experience,” said program coordinator Marianne Sheline, NHDI coordinator for the Indiana Historical Society.


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