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Students take war exhibit to state contest

They worked long and hard preparing their D-day project for the county history fair. They won, and it's on to the next level.


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2000

Powell Middle School eighth-graders John Cosentino and Brandon Bessette figure they are probably the most well-versed 14-year-olds on the planet when it comes to the D-Day invasion.

They have studied the subject of the famous World War II battle so much that John thinks they "could probably write a book about it."

The two spent more than six months gathering information to put into their group exhibit at the Hernando County History Fair in March.

That hard work paid off; they won first place and an invitation to join 26 other Hernando students at the state competition in Tallahassee next week.

"I really didn't think we would get this far," said John, who, along with Brandon, has been devoting much of his spring break to preparing the exhibit. "It was a lot of work, but we really liked doing it because it was so intersting."

The two estimate they put 1,500 hours into the project, which examines the historical perspective of the invasion of Allied troops onto the Normandy coast in France. With historical accounts, photographs, maps, scale models and memorabilia, the display traces the movement of the four divisions that landed in France on D-Day.

The students began the project in September with a trip to their school library. They read history books and encyclopedias and downloaded material from the Internet. There was so much available on the subject that the boys had a tough time containing it to fit the concise confines required of the exhibit.

"Our (exhibit) board could only have 500 words," John said. "That's not much."

They did have more latitude with their bibliography, which included 17 pages of reference material.

After they won the county event, the boys decided to include some additional material they recently acquired for the exhibit. Spring Hill resident Monfrey Wilson, a D-Day veteran, contributed three poems he wrote, plus a biographical narrative. John thinks the items offer an honest look at what war was really like.

"From what he told us, it was pretty terrible," John said. "We thought that it would be great to include them."

The state history fair takes place May 4-6. Other students who will be competing placed either first or second in the historical paper, exhibit, performance and documentary categories.

The following will be competing: Jacob Piper, Michael Butler, Alec Resnick, Raymond Cho, Sharon Aroda, Dyleeng Beach, Rozanne Ceccarelli, Hilary Nelson, Vinny Annibali, Henry Jensen, T.J. Reiners, Airien Bryan, Chelsea Berkely, Joey Cantu and Cara DiCristofalo, Chris Colitto, all from Fox Chapel Middle School; Krystal Newman, Jeff Andrews and Nathan Doyle, all from Powell Middle School, and Erica Doll, Cory Frederick, Melissa Parker and Allison Soloman, all from Parrott Middle School.

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