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Local Column

Schrader: History Fair entries bring histories to life

Kelly Aves, from Hiawatha High School, was one of the students earning a Superior 
rating for her exhibit which featured a prominent woman educator from the early 
Kelly Aves, from Hiawatha High School, was one of the students earning a Superior rating for her exhibit which featured a prominent woman educator from the early 1900s.

Every year I look forward to the Northern Regional History Fair for middle and high school students. It amazes me how much work goes into the student exhibits, research papers, websites, and onstage performances.

This year about 450 students from 28 schools around the area came together March 1 at the Holmes Student Center on the Northern Illinois University campus. The exhibits category alone produced 235 entries, keeping coordinator Anne Petty Johnson, her staff and a host of judges busy for hours. They also had to rate 157 research papers, 42 student websites, and 20 video documentaries.

Perusing the displays, I found historical subjects from all over Illinois I had never heard about. Talking to Hiawatha High School junior Kelly Aves, I learned about the life of a woman who was a pioneer in education named Ella Flagg Young. Young was the first female to head a large U.S. school system like Chicago. Kelly said she wanted to feature a prominent woman in Illinois history and came across Flagg.

Her exhibit won a Superior rating which means she will advance to statewide competition in Springfield. The love of history must be in her genes as her grandfather Allan Aves is a founder of the Kirkland Historical Society and still leads it.

Next I talked with Genoa-Kingston sixth-grader Hunter Swanson, who built his display around the 1835 Miller-Ellwood log cabin discovered encased inside a farmhouse near Genoa four years ago. It has since been reconstructed at the nearby Hoppe Sisters farmstead now owned by the DeKalb County Forest Preserve District. His project included a hand-built model of the cabin and also gained him a Superior rating.

St. Mary Catholic School in DeKalb led the county with 14 Superior ratings, followed by Hiawatha School District 426 with 11. Only four schools in DeKalb County participated this year.

Kudos should be given all the winners who will travel May 8 to Springfield with their outstanding exhibits. I would hope the local libraries and museums in their communities will display their efforts for the public to enjoy.

St. Mary’s top rated entrants were Ethan Cohen, Keegan Donnelly, Anna Dudziak, Leilah Dudziak, Alexander Federici, Andrew Grum, Tom Hannon, Beatrice Hartman, Mallory Larson, Madison Luce, Cameron Pederson, Kaitlyn Schatteman, Kennedy Shelley, Michael Stadler and Aidan Witthoff.

Superior entries from Hiawatha were Josephine Downen, Cole Dunbar, Travis Haak, Breanna Hamrick, Alli Lovell, Cecilia Snider, Gabbie Way, Jasmine Ascencio, Kelly Aves, Brandon Haluta and Ashley Prell.

Genoa’s Superior winner was Hunter Swanson.

• Barry Schrader can be reached via email at or at P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL. 60115. His column appears every other Tuesday.

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