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Idaho Virtual Academy (IDVA) sixth graders Silvia Klaeui and Anissa Sheppard recently won first prize for their exhibit at their regional National History Day competition in the junior classification.

Silvia and Anissa advanced to the Idaho state competition this past weekend and received high marks from the judges. It was a very competitive environment with over 300 students participating and only two projects being chosen for the national event. Although the girls did not advance to the national event, they are still very thankful for taking part in such a positive experience.

Their project,  Elizabeth Garrett Anderson: Taking a Stand for Women in Medicine and Education, started out as a six-week project for history class. Silvia and Anissa knew they wanted their focus to be on a strong woman.

“We looked up on Google a few women who had done a lot to help the world, and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson popped up with a lot of things that she had done in her past,” Silvia said. “She did a lot of cool things, so we thought she would be a very interesting person to research and do our project on.”

Silvia and Anissa were amazed at everything that Elizabeth Garrett Anderson had accomplished in her lifetime as one of the first pioneering feminists in Britain.

“Something I thought stood out about Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was everything she accomplished,” Anissa said. “Besides being the first woman doctor in England, which we talked about in our presentation, she also succeeded her husband as the mayor of Aldeburgh, the town where they retired. This means she was also the first woman mayor in England.”

Silvia and Anissa decided to enter their project into the regional National History Day competition. They soon learned that they were at a huge disadvantage because most of the competitors had been working on their projects since the start of the school year. Despite that, they took the blue ribbon at their regional competition and the judges commended them for picking a unique person to present. The judges loved how much excitement and enthusiasm the girls had for their project. They were the only ones in the region to research Elizabeth Garrett Anderson.

“It ended up being a bunch of fun and we had a very cool experience. We learned all about Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and we didn’t know that she even existed before,” Silvia said. “It was cool to learn what she did and how she did it. Even though people tried to stop her, she went on with what she wanted to do for England and the women who lived in England.”

“It feels amazing to make it so far in the competition,” Anissa said. “When I think about all we did and how the display ended up looking and about the competitions, I always think, ‘I can’t believe I did that! Was I really a part of making an amazing work of art?’ I did not think the competition would be such a big deal when I started it. I can’t believe what came out of doing the competition! A few people recognized me at one of the school events, our history teacher talked about us in one of her classes, and we were even put in a newsletter!””

The competition left them proud of all their hard work and an experience they will never forget.

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