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School's out, but four Rock Hill High students ready to put year's projects to the test in D.C.

School might be out for the summer, but four Rock Hill students aren't finished working on history projects yet.

Four rising sophomores at Rock Hill High School will leave Sunday for Washington, D.C., to compete in a National History Day competition.

Christina Vereb and Demmie White will enter a three-panel wooden display on the Berlin Wall that is taller than they are, and Caitlin Wolfe and Hannah Costner will enter a Web site they created about the Hinckley and Peshtigo fires, which destroyed Midwestern towns in the 1800s.

"It gives students an opportunity to research something and become an expert on something that really is their choice," said Martha Warner, program coordinator for English and social studies at Rock Hill High.

"Each step of the way, they're reflecting on what they've done, they're revising their work, they're doing deeper research, they're sometimes even changing their whole exhibit."

The girls started their projects last fall and have spent countless hours getting them ready for next week.

They picked a topic, researched and revised their projects in between school, regional, state and now national competitions. The outcome was not your typical poster presentation.

The Berlin Wall display is made of wood that has been textured and painted to look like the east and west sides. It has mock barbed wire at the top and fake bullet holes throughout. The display gives the history of the wall and also has pictures throughout.

The Web site on the Peshtigo and Hinckley fires features fire colors and a flame cursor. The site has links to information on the history and effects of the fires as well as a podcast and a survivor's story.

Finding all the material for the projects was not easy.

"It was very hard because they're such obscure fires," Costner said. "We used the Internet more than books."

At the state competition, the students were interviewed about their projects.

"Right before you go in there, you're trying to go over all the information," White said. "It's kind of nerve-wracking, but it's pretty cool."

Part of the judging is based on how well the students can relate their project to the competition's theme: Conflict and Compromise. Both pairs said it took a few tries and tips from judges and others before they came up with their final answers.

"We answered that it's the conflict and the compromise," Vereb said. "It's the conflict because it separated Berlin for three decades, and it's the compromise because if it wouldn't have been built, there might have been a third world war."

A student at Sullivan Middle School, Sarah Hicklin, also placed first at the state level. She will advance to next week's national competition for her documentary on the Friendship Nine, a group of Friendship College students who were arrested and sentenced to 30 days in jail in 1961 during a wave of sit-ins in support of civil rights.

The girls said the hours of work were worth it.

"National History Day is a fun experience," Wolfe said. "I'd recommend people do it even if they don't want to win, just for the experience."

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