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May 12, 2014

Local students gear up for contest

TRAVERSE CITY — Two Traverse City East Middle School students are heading to the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest in June to present a documentary on this year’s theme: Rights and responsibilities in history.

The annual contest asks students to choose a historical topic that coincides with that year’s theme and create a paper, exhibit, performance, website or documentary to present.

Eighth-grade students Ru Ferguson and Abigail Fox researched the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and created a nine-minute film called “Closing the Golden Gate.” The pair made the film to document what effect the federal law that restricted Chinese immigration to the United States had on American race relations and the economy.

A panel of judges will decide how the documentary compares to other projects submitted from students across the country.

Ferguson and Fox advanced from local and and statewide History Day competitions to secure a spot in the national contest at the University of Maryland June 15-19.

“I’m pretty excited. I didn’t think we were going to make it because there were a lot of documentaries,” Fox said.

Ferguson and Fox started work on their film in January and spent countless hours outside of school researching, writing, recording and editing until they had a final product that satisfied them. Integrated American history teacher Jody Mackey served as the pair’s adviser and watched as they went through several versions of the film.

“These kids are in sports and they all take top honors classes. Their homework is enough to keep them busy alone. I was just so impressed that they wanted to keep going,” Mackey said. “I’m super proud of them. They worked their tails off.”

Ferguson said the state competition was intimidating, but she’s confident in her work after making it to the next level of competition.

“I have a good feeling about our video,” she said.

A link to the documentary is posted on East Middle School’s website at

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