Eighth-Graders Win Award for Best LGBTQ Project in California History Day Competition
The GLBT Historical Society grants an annual Young Scholar Award to the best LGBTQ project in the California competition for National History Day. This year’s winners are Allison Brustman, Alex Granlund and Sophia Valdez, who were eighth-grade students at Spring View Middle School in Rocklin, Calif., when they participated at the state level in May. They also received an honorable mention from California History Day. This month, all three start as freshmen at Whitney High School in Rocklin. Here’s their report on their winning project:
National History Day is a nationwide competition where kids in grades six through 12 pick a topic and a style to display information on a history topic of their choosing. There are regional and state competitions, and winners go to the national event. Each year there is a new theme. This year it was “Conflict and Compromise.”
We entered the competition as a group, choosing California’s Proposition Six from 1978 because we wanted to study a topic that related not only to a civil rights movement, but also to LGBTQ history. Proposition Six was a ballot initiative that would have banned gay and lesbian people from teaching in the state’s public schools. We titled our project “Hope Is Never Silent: The Conflicts and Compromise of Proposition Six.”
We were able to discover how LGBTQ people now have opportunities to become more open with the world; however, this openness is relatively recent, and it is still not found throughout our country. With our History Day project, we wanted to make more people aware that even today, there are LGBTQ people struggling to be okay with themselves because of what society has shaped itself to be.
Harvey Milk vs. John Briggs
Our project was laid out as a website with several components to show and analyze the history. You can visit the website here. For context, we noted that not many people were openly gay in 1978. Following this, we presented the two sides of the conflict, with State Senator John Briggs promoting the initiative and the No on Six campaign, including Harvey Milk, opposing it. Then we looked at compromise. This was hard to find because both sides were so influential and determined.
One last important part was the short-term and long-term impact of Proposition Six. In the end, voters rejected the initiative, and lesbian and gay people were allowed to continue working in California public schools. As a result, more people realized being lesbian or gay was fine, and more people came out. It looked like gay and lesbian rights were heading in the right direction — although even today, 40 years later, we still have many more things to achieve to reach full equality for LGBTQ people.
As a team, we were incredibly honored to win the GLBT Historical Society’s Young Scholar Award for California History Day. We had used the society’s website and museum plus advice from its staff members to help put together our project. We had an incredible amount of support for taking on such a controversial yet intriguing topic. Winning the award was a huge pat on the back for our group because we realized that we were helping promote change, even if only a little.