Rosa student get help with National History Day project from civil rights activist

Two weeks prior to attending the National History Day state competition, eighth grade student Jared Sinrich talked to activist Jesse Jackson about his participation in the civil rights protests of the 1960s.

This year, dozens of Rosa International Middle School students put together projects for the 2017 National History Day competition.

The theme of this year’s competition is “Taking A Stand.” Many of the students researched accounts of historical events such as the Battle of Yorktown, apartheid in South Africa and Watergate.

For his project on the sit-in movement during the 1960s, eighth grader Jared Sinrich, 14, did a whole lot more than research. He got to speak with a prominent civil rights activist who lived through the era.

Two weeks prior to the National History Day state competition at William Paterson University, Sinrich got to speak with civil rights activist and minister Jesse Jackson. Sinrich reach out to Jackson to hear, first-hand, what it was like to participate in the civil rights movement 50 years ago.

“He didn’t want to stand in the shadows,” Sinrich said about Jackson. “He wanted to do something.”

When Sinrich found out this year’s National History Day topic was “Taking a Stand,” he gravitated immediately to the civil rights movement.

“I was always really interested in civil rights,” he said. “I felt I wanted to do something that people didn’t know about.”

Sinrich is one of just two Rosa National History Day students who put together an individual project. Sinrich did hours of research, putting together a paper focused on the sit-in movement from 50 years ago. Sinrich also created a pair of tri-fold boards featuring photos from the movement.

Sinrich learned a lot from his research and said he was stunned to find out just how rough the violence was against the black community at the time.

Sinrich first presented his project on March 4 at the National History Day regional competition at Rutgers University-Camden. He said the judges gave him high marks for his research and bibliography.

Since the regional competition, Sinrich has worked on improving his tri-boards and refining his presentation for the judges. He also wanted to speak with someone who was personally involved with the civil rights movement. He decided to reach out to the Rainbow Coalition, an organization Jackson formed to fight for equal rights for all Americans.

Sinrich wasn’t sure if he’d actually get in touch with Jackson when he first reached out.

“Over the call with the secretary, I found out he has a busy schedule,” Sinrich said. “I thought that there was a chance he could answer.”

After speaking with Jackson’s secretary, Sinrich was able to schedule a 30-minute phone call on Friday, April 21 to talk about the civil rights movement.

Sinrich said the conversation was rewarding. While he knew a lot about the events Jackson spoke about through his research, Sinrich felt hearing Jackson speak about actually participating in some of the events of the 1960s added a new element.

“He told me that he fought for the civil rights because he felt he was protecting his dignity,” Sinrich said.

Following his conversation with Jackson, Sinrich is confident entering the state competition. He hopes his project will be good enough to qualify for NHD’s national competition in June. The top two finishers in each category of the state competition will advance to nationals.

“I’m confident with my exhibit board and I’m confident with my writing pieces,” he said. “But there will be other tough competitors from North Jersey and South Jersey.”

Sinrich and other Rosa students will compete in the National History Day New Jersey state competition at William Paterson University. The state finals will take place on Saturday, May 6.