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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.

Year after year, the fact that the use of oral history research contributes to the historical quality of documentaries is proven by the number of students who earn the TOHA special award and also advance to the National History Day contest in June by winning first or second place in the regular judging.

On May 2, 2015, in Austin, TOHA recognized the successful use of oral history research by four students in the creation of historical documentaries highlighting the annual theme, Legacy and Leadership in History. Serving as judges for the TOHA award were Cynthia Beeman, Jaclyn Jeffrey, and Lois Myers.

In the junior division, first place was earned by Devyn Moore, for the documentary, "Willie Velasquez: Su Voto Es Su Voz." Devyn is a student at the Young Women's Leadership Academy in San Antonio, studying under teacher Adrean Springer. In the process paper accompanying the documentary, Devyn described how interviewing relatives and friends of Willie Velasquez helped her understand ways "Willie inspired Latinos to follow his lead and get registered to vote, and then use that right to have their voices heard." This project placed second in the regular judging, so the entry will advance to the national contest.

Second place in the junior division was earned by Bettina Mateo, from Morehead Middle School in El Paso, whose teacher is Frank Clark. For her documentary, titled "Cory Aquino: From Housewife to President," Bettina interviewed several Filipinos, including her grandparents, who remembered the presidencies of Ferdinand Marcos and Cory Aquino. Bettina incorporated animation into the documentary with her own drawings.

In the senior division, Zakary Piwetz, from Rockport-Fulton High School, in Rockport, a student of Suzanne Ransleban, earned first place in the TOHA award for the second year in a row. This year's documentary, "Apollo's Webb," featured the leadership and legacy of Jim Webb in America's space program. Zakary interviewed men who worked with Webb at NASA's Mission Control in Houston and incorporated videos of the interviews in his documentary. This documentary also earned a Distinguished Achievement Award in the regular judging.

Earning the second place TOHA award in the senior division for 2015 was Brent Vela, a student of Barbi Bennig at Nimitz High School in Houston. Brent's entry was "Heal the Man, Heal the Land: Roosevelt's Legacy in the Civilian Conservation Corps." In addition to researching archived oral history interviews with CCC workers at NARA, Kentucky Historical Society, and University of Florida, Brent conducted personal interviews with former CCC workers and their widows. His excellent work earned first place in the regular judging, so Brent's project will represent Texas at the national contest in June. Congratulations to the well-deserving students who qualify for and win the TOHA Texas History Day Award!