GM student represents Vermont in Smithsonian History Day exhibition

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Violet Haight with her award winning history exhibit. Photo provided

A Vermont History Day presentation on Suzy ‘Chap Stick’ Chaffee researched and created by Andover student Violet Haight at Green Mountain High School has been selected to compete in the National History Day Contest.

It was also chosen to be showcased virtually by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Learning Lab in Washington, D.C. , as well as winning an additional prize.

The theme for the History Day competitions this year was Communication in History: The Key to Understanding with the Museum of American History looking for presentations that centered around state and local history. Fifty-one exhibits were chosen for the virtual show. At the state level,  special prizes were awarded for exhibits on different subject areas including women from Vermont.

Suzette Chivers  teaches the seventh grade social studies class that Violet takes at Green Mountain High, but for a number of years she coached the classes who competed in the history day contests when she taught at Black River High School.

“They don’t have to enter the contest at the state level, but I do require a project,” Chivers told The Telegraph. Chivers says that the competition helps students achieve three proficiencies including analysis of primary and secondary source material, historical research and writing and presentation and getting feedback.

“At the beginning of the year I showed them examples and we talked about strategies and the students’ interests,” said Chivers.  “We teamed with the (GM) library and the Vermont State Historical Society was helpful with sources.”

Rutland native Suzy Chaffee in a ChapStick ad.

“Violet was really driven to pick a particular topic – women Vermont skiers – which was unique,” says Chivers, noting that beyond the advertising for lip balm, the Rutland native’s life had included activism on behalf of women and Native Americans in skiing.

“I wanted to choose a ski racer from Vermont because I ski race a bit,” says Violet. The original concept was for a play with characters, but that didn’t work out so she turned to presenting on an exhibit board.

“Mrs. Chivers helped me with organizing,” says Violet who used primary and secondary sources for research and created a detail bibilography. The next step was gathering photos – mainly from the internet – and sourcing their origins to give proper credit.

Violet said that the solid week of cutting out text and photos, then gluing them together and then to the board was relaxing. “It was nice to not be typing,” she said.

Then, on April 9, Violet was home with her family watching the the remote awards ceremony from the Vermont Historical Society when she learned that she had placed third in the exhibit board category and won the $250 Deborah Pickman Clifford Vermont Women’s History Prize.

That prize had been given out for many years, according to Victoria Hughes of the Historical Society, and was subsequently named for a notable Vermont historian who died in 2008. The prize is sponsored by the Vermont Commission on Women.

The second place winner was not eligible to move to the national competition so Violet’s exhibit will be one of two representing Vermont in Washington. And the historical society selected her presentation out of more than 200 to be Vermont’s single entry in the Smithsonian’s showcase.

The national awards ceremony will be live streamed from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 19 . To watch, click here

Violet was not Green Mountain’s only winners at the state level. Senior Chestina Terry won the Vermont History Award in the Senior category for the video Communication of Andover, Vt. Through History. And Suzette Chivers received the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation Teacher Award.

“While the students do a lot of work, the teachers are also doing a lot,” said Victoria Hughes.

Asked if she saw her interest in history growing out of her success, Violet said that since she is “only in 7th grade” and has not had a lot of experience with it, she isn’t sure.

“But it was really fun looking up topics,” said Violet.

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  1. Margie Straub says:

    Well done, all!

  2. Sharon Jonynas says:

    Congratulations to Violet, Suzette, and Chestina. Way to represent our school!