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Youth captures history on film

• Sixth-grade filmmaker competing in nationals

Posted: June 14, 2008 1:56 a.m.
Updated: August 15, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Sixth-grader Jessica Resnick won state in the Junior Individual Documentary category, and is headed for nationals this weekend.

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Her documentary about the experiences of a Japanese-American during World War II won a state competition over Mother's Day weekend, and now sixth-grader Jessica Resnick is hoping to win a national competition over Father's Day weekend.

The Castaic Middle School student is at the University of Maryland in College Park this weekend continuing through Thursday with her video teacher, parents, siblings and one set of grandparents. The draw is the National History Day competition.

"She has a very supportive family, and that's so important for History Day," said Jessica's video teacher, Ro Osano. "Her parents are willing to drive her around to interviews, or do whatever it takes to help her do her best."

History Day is designed to engage students in the process of discovery and interpretation of historical topics. Students conduct extensive research and present their findings in the form of historical papers, exhibits, performances and documentaries.

Jessica, 12, took the documentary route, telling the story of Fred Korematsu, a Japanese-American who evaded an internment camp. His ultimate capture and subsequent court battles became an example of how Japanese-Americans were treated during World War II.

"When I was choosing a topic, I wanted something that was local to Southern California, and something that was recent enough to have people to interview," Jessica said. "The Japanese internment was too broad, so I learned about Fred Korematsu and decided to focus on him."

Korematsu died in 2005, but Jessica was able to talk to his wife and daughter for her documentary. Since winning the state competition, Jessica has gone through her video to make it even better for nationals.

"She's put in about another 40 hours of work in the past three weeks to try to make it better," Osano said.

Jessica is excited about nationals - and a side trip her family plans to make to Washington D.C. - but is a bit apprehensive about the competition.

"I'm a little nervous about the first part of the competition, where I have to answer some questions, because that's always been my weakest part," she said.

But Jessica's teacher said there's no reason for her to be nervous.

"I've seen her grow from a shy little girl, who cringed whenever I spoke to her, to a confident young lady who can stand in front of a group of people and answer questions," said Osano, who has taken four students to the national competition in the past eight years.

"She has worked hard, and the rewards are going to be so great for her."

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