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Texas History Day

Student Oral History Award

TOHA recognizes outstanding use of oral history in junior and senior individual documentaries entered in the state's annual history fair contest, held the first weekend in May, in Austin. Texas History Day is sponsored by the Texas State Historical Association, which allows associations like TOHA to present special awards to entries that reflect the particular interests of the organization.

We appreciate the gifts of time and expertise given by our Texas History Day special award judges. To win the TOHA award, students must interview at least three people and demonstrate use of the interview materials in their documentaries. First-place winners receive a gift card, and first- and second-place winners also receive a TOHA medal and certificate.

On April 30, 2016, in Austin, TOHA recognized the successful use of oral history research by five students in the creation of historical documentaries highlighting the annual theme, Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History. Serving as judges for the TOHA award were Jessica Roseberry and Adrienne Cain.

In the junior division, first place was earned by Norah Rami, a student of teacher Debbie Engle in the Sartartia Middle School, Sugar Land, for her documentary "Annie Jump Cotton: The Woman Who Reached for the Stars." Norah conducted oral history interviews to research ways astronomer Annie Jump Cotton's exploration of the universe continued to be exchanged among astronomers and astrophysicists decades after her death. Cotton catalogued thousands of stars, discovered and classified new groups of stars, and, according to Norah, "opened doors for women in the field of science and created a scholarship that is still being exchanged today."

Second place in the junior division was earned by Jasmine Vital, a student of teacher Brandy Medus at Teague Middle School in Humble, for her documentary "Exploration in Medicine: The Salk Polio Vaccine." To learn about Salk, Jasmine interviewed the author of a biography of Salk, a polio survivor, and Peter Salk, the son of Jonas Salk and one of the first children to be tested with the vaccine.

In the senior division, first place was earned by Aditya Palacharla for the documentary "Apollo 13: An Exploration of Trust and Teamwork," which relied heavily on interviews with five former members of the Apollo mission control team. From the interviews, Aditya learned the importance of the cooperation between the Apollo 13 flight crew and mission control to confronting and overcoming life-threatening problems and returning the crew safely home. Aditya is a student of teacher Richard Walker at Plano East High School, in Plano.

Zakary Piwetz, from Rockport-Fulton High School, in Rockport, a student of Suzanne Ransleban, earned second place in the TOHA senior award. Zakary is familiar to TOHA, having placed first in the oral history award in 2014 and 2015. This year's documentary, "From Typeset to Television: The Media's Changing Impact on War," featured interviews with six veterans who took part in many of the major wars of the last seven decades. The veterans described the influence of popular media across the years--newsreels, television, social media--on perceptions of war. This documentary also earned a Distinguished Achievement Award in the regular judging.

Earning a third place TOHA award in the senior division for 2016 was Brent Vela, a student of Barbi Petty-Binnigof at Nimitz High School in Houston. Brent's entry, "The Fever of War," told the story of the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic through the voices of eyewitnesses preserved in oral history collections in Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas. His excellent documentary work earned third place in the regular judging.

Congratulations to the well-deserving students who qualify for and win the TOHA Texas History Day Award!