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CMA heads to National History Day competition

Posted: June 2, 2011 3:18 p.m.
Updated: June 3, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Last year, six Camden Military Academy (CMA) students traveled to the National History Day competition in Maryland, in hopes of winning the prestigious national contest.

But this year, nearly twice as many CMA students will make the trek to the national competition in June and, according to CMA Dean of Students John Heflin, that in itself is a pretty big accomplishment.

“The fact that we have two teams going this year just marks the growth of the program and shows that people are committed to the concept,” he said. “This gives the students an opportunity to come together, build unity, learn about a topic and compete. They’re learning lessons that will help them in the future.”

Alex Trznadel, Joshua Clementz, Artur Farber, Zane Spencer, Haiden Shemer, Lane Morse, Tyler Painter, Hunter Bunch, Blade Dickinson and Zach Schneffer were all selected to participate in the national competition at the University of Maryland’s College Park campus. The students, who hail from as far away as Colorado, Texas and Florida, will represent South Carolina in the competition.

As part of their project, the two teams of students said they were required to write and memorize their own scripts, prepare an annotated bibliography and conduct hours of research on their topics -- which they selected as the starting of the Civil Rights movement and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.

Contrary to popular belief, the students said, preparing for the National History Day competition is much more intense than simply writing a research paper. Some of the students estimated they spent more than 100 hours just researching, writing and making preparations during the past several months.

“We’ve spent at least 150 hours of just working. Writing the script and finding the sources, working on the bibliography, making the costumes, making the backdrop, and making everything ready,” Clementz said, adding that they practice five days a week for an hour and a half at a time. “And that doesn’t even include practicing. Not including practicing, it’s at least over 100 hours.”

More than an estimated half million students across the country participate in the contest each year, but only those entries deemed as among the best in each category at state competitions are eligible to go on to the national competition -- this year, the CMA teams took home both first and second place at the state competition.

Several candidates didn’t hesitate when they were asked what they liked most about the National History Day competition.

“The adrenaline rush when you’re on stage. The whole time, it was just that feeling like, yeah, we’re doing something. All eyes are on us for once,” Schneffer said. “That makes it all worth it.”

The students did more than just learn a lot about a topic, Heflin said, they worked hard and formed a unity with their teammates.

“It’s very intense and a lot of work. For the most part, you don’t even see the fruits of your labor until now … and they’ve been working on this since the fall,” he said. “But it definitely forms unity with them. We’re different than other schools where the students have known each other during their entire careers. Some of our students here have only known each other for a year.”

CMA Headmaster Eric Boland said he’s proud of the cadets not just for making it to the national competition, but for putting forth a lot of hard work and effort into their projects during the past several months.

 “This is about the fourth year in a row that our young men have placed first or second,” Boland said. “They worked hard during the school year and we’re just real proud of them; they learn a lot through the activities that they do through history day.

“It’s a lot of work, it’s not just something they did in five minutes -- and I don’t think people appreciate that. It’s not just writing a report and presenting it to a class, it’s a lot of work and we’re really proud of them.”

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