A Lawrence High School senior attended the 20th annual National History Day competition in College Park, Md.
He's a Midwestern native who has never been to New England, but Justin Shmalberg has the spirit of Yankee ingenuity to thank for his recent trip to College Park, Md.
Shmalberg, a Lawrence High School senior, and two of his teachers, Paul Stuewe and Mike Ortmann, recently returned from the 20th annual National History Day competition at the University of Maryland at College Park.
To get there he had to win regional and state competitions with his paper, "New England Whaling: An Institution of Change."
His paper explored the life of whalers and the impact the industry had on the United States.
"I did a lot of research," he said. "Whalers mapped the gulf stream, and a lot of islands were named for whalers. Tasmania was settled when it was because of American whalers. The 1800s was really the golden age of whaling."
Shmalberg competed against 78 other students from throughout the United Sates at the national competition. The judges only name the top three, and since Shmalberg didn't place, there is no way to know where his paper ended up in the final count.
"The judges' response was positive and I felt the interview went as well as possible," he said.
Shmalberg didn't come home empty-handed. He gained a better understanding of history and monuments in and around Washington, D.C., and got to meet with Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kan., on Capitol Hill.
It wasn't his first trip to the nation's capital. When he was in fifth grade he and a group of Schwegler School students were there to participate in the national Explorer Vision competition.
"The best part was getting to see D.C. again," he said. "I had a lot more respect than when I was in fifth grade."
For Stuewe, who takes students to the nation's capital every year, it was an opportunity to see how other students across the country are exploring government and history.
"You look at the projects, papers and performances from other schools and it gives you an idea what to aspire to," he said. "When you're competing against the best it's a long-shot to win nationals."
Before Shmalberg made it to the regional, state or national competition he had to pass Stuewe's test.
"The paper I have them do in class is the same one they can enter in the history competition," Stuewe said.
Needless to say, Stuewe gave Shmalberg an "A" for his efforts.
Shmalberg plans to enter the competition again next year, but he's thinking about entering the documentary category instead of writing a research paper.
He'll have lots of material to work from. He leaves for a paleontology dig in Montana this week, and later this summer will head to Kenya for an African safari.
-- JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.