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Barton news 'boys'

Annika Socia (left) and Hannah Poginy (right), rising eighth graders at St. Paul School in Barton, created and performed “The Newsboy Strike of 1899.” Their performance at National History Day in June at the University of Maryland earned the award for best performance related to American Labor History. Submitted Photo Annika Socia (left) and Hannah Poginy (right), rising eighth graders at St. Paul School in Barton, created and performed “The Newsboy Strike of 1899.” Their performance at National History Day in June at the University of Maryland earned the award for best performance related to American Labor History.
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Two students from St. Paul School in Barton attended National History Day in June at the University of Maryland, bringing home to Vermont the award they won for their performance related to American Labor History.  

Hannah Poginy and Annika Socia – rising eighth graders — created and performed “The Newsboy Strike of 1899.” 

They dressed up as newspaper boys for their 9-minute skit about strike leaders “Kid Blink” and “Racetrack.” A panel of three judges asked questions relating to their research methods and the consequences of the strike. 

The Catholic Church has a well-documented tradition on labor and unions, rooted in the human right of association.

Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 social encyclical, “On the Condition of Labor” (“Rerum Novarum”) addressed the dehumanizing conditions in which many workers labor and affirms workers’ rights to just wages, rest and fair treatment, to form unions and to strike if necessary.

Madalyn Ledoux, religion teacher for grades 3-8 at St. Paul’s and Hannah’s maternal grandmother, said their newsboy strike topic is applicable to Catholic social teaching because the strike was one of the most successful labor strikes in U.S. history and resulted in major reforms regarding child labor. 

“Furthermore, it was primarily started and led by children,” she emphasized.

The 2016 history competition theme was “Exploration, Encounter, Exchange.”

Annika, 12, and Hannah, 13, focused their performance on the newsboy strike because they both like “Newsies The Musical,” a Disney Theatrical Productions stage musical based on the 1992 musical film “Newsies,” which was inspired by the Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City.

Working more than 100 hours on their project, the skit was a requirement in Susan Guilmette’s language arts class at St. Paul’s. 

The best friends first performed their skit in class then in April went to the Vermont History Day in East Montpelier, winning first place in the junior group performance with a superior rating and earning a spot at National History Day where they competed against about 100 other entries in their category.

With help from Peter Tarbox, who participates in local community theater, and Victoria Hughes, Vermont History Day coordinator, the winners of the Calvin Coolidge Prize in Vermont for an entry about something that changed America felt better prepared for the national competition, attended by several of their family members.

“We said lots of Hail Mary’s,” Annika said with a smile, referring to the nervousness the girls felt before their performance in Maryland. “It calmed us down and made us stop thinking about [being nervous,]” Hannah added.

Every year more than 3,000 students from throughout the world advance to the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest in College Park, Md. Annika and Hannah created their costumes with clothing they had bought or borrowed. They smeared charcoal on their faces and clothing to resemble the newsboys who got dirty on the streets, used a cinnamon stick for a cigar and brought stacks of recycled Barton Chronicle newspapers as props.

“They were fighting for fair work conditions,” Annika said of the newsboys.

“You should treat your neighbors as yourself and your workers as yourself,” she added. 

“It doesn’t matter what your gender is or your age or where you’re from,” Hannah said.

Participating in the project helped her understand what children of the past endured. “For children, it’s really important to get educated first,” she said.

Annika was appalled that if the newsboys did not sell enough papers, they did not eat. “It made us think more about child labor,” Hannah said. “It was a hard life.”

Guilmette said the girls were “a joy to work with” because they have the “unheralded” quality of initiative which is “very, very important in life.”

Annika is the daughter of Rosa and Vincent Socia of Albany; they attend St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Newport.

Hannah is the daughter of Alicia and Brandon Poginy of Barton and attends St. John Vianney Church in Irasburg where she is a lector.

Three other St. Paul School students qualified for the national history competition but chose not to attend.

National History Day 2017 will focus on “Taking a Stand in History,” June 11-15.

Annika and Hannah are already brainstorming their entry.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.
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