European edition, Sunday, June 17, 2007

An eighth-grader from Vicenza Middle School in Italy nearly cracked the top 10 with a documentary she submitted at the National History Day competition.

April Petersen, who produced “Leni Riefenstahl: Trufthful Artist or Tragic Propagandist” finished 11th in the junior individual documentary competition on Thursday. She was one of 34 students from Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe to participate in the event but the only one to make the finals. She’s the first DODDS-Europe student in the three years in which the system has participated to make the final round.

“She should be very proud,” said Mark Bignell, acting social studies coordinator for the Department of Defense Education Activity, who attended the event at the University of Maryland at College Park. Acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns was the keynote speaker at the event.

According to organizers, more than 500,000 American students participate in the competition, which has been held for more than 25 years. Students, as individuals or in groups, compete at local levels, then in state competitions before advancing to the national finals.

Bignell said there were about 2,000 students at the finals competing in 14 categories — seven each for junior and senior divisions. DODDS-Europe students competed in most of them.

April won the DODDS-Europe competition in her category in Heidelberg, Germany, in March. She was one of

According to the association’s Web site (, the winner in April’s category was Shruti Varadharajan of Sartartia Middle School in Sugarland, Texas, whose submission was “From Ashes to Moon Dust: Apollo 1 Tragedy Steers Man to the Moon and Beyond.”

The top junior and senior entrants from each state and other entities were selected by judges. April was picked as DODEA’s top junior entrant and Bitburg’s Jordan Thomas, Aaron Roth and Justin Heller were named top senior entrant. They entered a video “Malmedy Massacre,” in the senior group documentary division.

Corporate sponsors provided an array of cash prizes and scholarships to the top placers.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for 40 years.

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