By Curt Yeomans
Clayton County schools Coordinator of Secondary Social Studies Michael Powell said Thursday he could not recall a time in at least 10 years when Clayton County students took overall top honors at the Georgia Council for the Social Studies state fair, until now.
Arnold Elementary School fifth-grader Darrielle McCray, 10, won the Friends of the Georgia Archives' Best Sociology-Social Psychology project for all grade levels at the fair.
M.D. Roberts Middle School sixth-grader Sydney-Alyce Bourget, 12, won the National Archives Award for the best history project in Georgia.
McCray and Bourget were among six Clayton County students who won "best of" awards at the state social studies fair March 21, but the pair were the only students from the county to win in categories that covered all grade levels. Since there is no national fair, the state social studies fair is the highest level at which the students can compete.
"I'm extremely happy because it shows the commitment of our teachers and students to the Georgia Performance Standards," Powell said.
McCray, who also won "Best in Discipline: Sociology/Social Psychology" award for Class I (fifth- and sixth-graders), got inspiration for her project on how home foreclosures affect students and their studies from current events. She said the topic appealed to her because she could see people around her community who were struggling. As a result, she thought sociology was a better field than other topics like history, or anthropology.
"I chose to do a sociology project because I felt I could relate to it more than history," McCray said. "I would like to be a sociologist some day."
McCray said her success at the state fair is a result of the encouragement and advice she received from Powell, and her gifted education teacher Audrey Fowler, and her parents.
Bourget's project was two years in the making. She began researching the Middle Passage of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade two years ago, and added to her project as she acquired information.
In the days leading up to the fair, she was still adding information when she visited the National Archive Southeast Region facility in Morrow and got access to cargo manifests from slave ships.
"The manifests lists the names, heights and weights of the slaves, but it listed them as cargo," she said. "That's what helped me understand the perspective of everything else in my project."
In addition to McCray and Bourget, other winners from the school system were: Rex Mill Middle School sixth-grader Lindsey Perry, "Best in Discipline: Anthropology" for Class I for a project on the writing technique known as NuShu; Morrow High School seniors Kimberly Appler and Erin Fielding, "Best in Discipline: History" for Class IV (11th-, and 12th-graders) for a project on Joseph Stalin's purges, and Riverdale High School junior Sotheavy Vann, "Best in Class IV" for a project on what caused and ended the Great Depression.
Vann said she was surprised when her project was announced as the best overall project in Class IV, after Appler and Fielding won the best history project award, because Vann's project also fell in the history category. She said she benefited from doing a project on the Great Depression because it helped her understand the nation's current economic situation.
"It taught me to be careful with spending on credit cards," Vann said. "I also learned if you see everyone buying something all at the same time, be smart, do your research and find out if it is really worth an investment."
Interim Superintendent Valya Lee said the youths were examples of the greatness she wants to see all students in Clayton County achieve.
"It shows we have dedicated staff that is going to give them what they need to do things like this," Lee said. "These are kids who are some of the brightest, and our goal is to make all of them the best and the brightest."