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Cane Creek Places 3rd in National Competition
Cane Creek Places 3rd in National Competition
Posted on 06/25/2020
The Cane Creek Team poses next to their exhibit.By Tim Reaves
BCS Communications Department

By understanding how the past shapes the present, students can better prepare for their tomorrow.

Cane Creek Middle School students Sara Barlowe, Grace Armitstead, Brady Clausen, and Trapper Alonso placed third in the nation at the (virtual) 2020 National History Day contest. Their exhibit, “Brothers Like These and the Barriers They Faced after Vietnam,” recreated one of the infamous “tiger cages” used to torture political prisoners and prisoners of war (POWs) during the Vietnam War. The students covered the cage walls with historical background information, quotes from Vietnam veterans, photographs, and artifacts. The exhibit focused on the lingering effects of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Agent Orange, and the bitter homecoming many veterans faced when returning from the war.

“I enjoyed working with my friends on an exhibit that would help people better understand and sympathize with veterans suffering from PTSD,” said rising seventh-grader Grace Armitstead.

“I liked learning about the Vietnam War but cannot imagine having to go through what prisoners of war had to go through,” added rising seventh-grader Brady Clausen.

National History Day (NHD) is “a year-long academic program focused on historical research, interpretation and creative expression for sixth-12th-grade students,” according to the organization’s website. “By participating in NHD, students become writers, filmmakers, web designers, playwrights, and artists as they create unique contemporary expressions of history.”

Out of 98 national submissions, the “Brothers Like These” exhibit rose near the top even though COVID-19 disrupted the normal flow.

“They went to the district competition at Western Carolina University two weeks before the virus hit,” said Fairview Elementary School STEM Lab Coordinator Melissa Spruill, who serves as the mentor for the group. “They advanced to the state and then national rounds. Normally you can tweak your submission between rounds, but the virus prevented that. So their original submission made it all the way to third place nationally. That was a very unexpected honor.”

The team, called Kids Like These 4 Vets, formed in 2018 at Fairview Elementary School (FES) as part of a service-learning project for Destination Imagination – a competition devoted to creative problem solving, global diversity, and student leadership. The original team (Sara Barlowe, Caleb Cole, Graham Carter, Trapper Alonso, Thomas Klepper, and Savanna Reimels) visited Black Mountain State Veterans Home and met a veteran who told them of his painful experience coming home from the war. They also discovered that their bus driver, Stephen Henderson (now retired), is a Vietnam War veteran and member of Brothers Like These, a local PTSD creative writing therapy group. FES students and teachers organized a “welcome home” parade for Mr. Henderson, and they teamed up with Brothers Like These to learn more.

“This group felt so strongly about this project, they carried it forward into middle school, because they wanted to stay connected to Brothers Like These,” Ms. Spruill said. “Their project morphed into a broader study of that time in history and how it’s affected our Vietnam vets today.”

Through the experience, the students deepened their knowledge and understanding of a painful chapter of American History.

“I appreciate veterans now much more than I already did before doing this project,” said rising seventh-grader Trapper Alonso. “I think more about them should be taught in school.”

“My daughter, Sara, is so proud to be an honorary member of ‘Brothers Like These,’” said Susan Barlowe, mother of rising eighth-grader Sara Barlowe. “She has a huge soft spot for veterans, and they have become her extended family.”

Ms. Spruill shared this excerpt from a letter she received from Charles Chadbourn III, Professor of Strategy at the U.S. Naval War College, regarding the National History Day project:

“As a Navy Vietnam veteran myself, I was especially struck by the fact of how well your students appreciated the fact that whether one thinks the war was wrong or not, the veterans whose only fault was doing what their country asked of them to the best of their ability should not be blamed for what turned out to be unwise policy decisions. Clearly many with PTSD come from those who were in naval service as Marines and/or Navy POWs. That is one of the reasons this project was picked as one to honor. The empathy your students had for the veterans was heartwarming! Thank you for mentoring them in this demanding project.”


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Check out this great video by Asheville Citizen-Times Staff Photographer Angela Wilhelm, which provides more details about Kids Like These 4 Vets.

Buncombe County Schools is in the process of reviewing its website to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Buncombe County Schools does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its education programs or activities and is required by Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and federal regulations to not discriminate in such a manner. This requirement extends to admission and employment. Inquiries about the application of Title IX and its implementing federal regulations may be referred to the Title IX Coordinator and/or the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. The Title IX Coordinator's contact information is: Shanon Martin, shanon.martin@bcsemail.org, 828-255-5918, 175 Bingham Road, Asheville, NC 28806.

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