Six students from the Neshoba Youth Coalition recently won the annual National History Day State Competition held at the University of Southern Mississippi on Feb. 23.

The students participated in two categories - historical paper and group performance - and won their first state championship in the group performance category.

The group will be representing Mississippi at the National History Day Competition at the University of Maryland/ College Park from June 9-13.

The group wrote and performed the skit, "Mississippi Burning; The Turning of Mississippi."

The theme for the National History Day competition is Turning Points in History.

"Turning Points in History was very easy for us," said Myeisha Jones, president of the Neshoba Youth Coalition.

"As a member of the Neshoba Youth Coalition, we spend a lot of time talking about local historic events and how those events effect us today," she added.

"When we first heard the story about the Mississippi Burning case, our first impression was, 'Wow! This story needs to be shared with every youth in the world,' " added fellow cast member, Antajh Boggan.

Shaniya Finley said their interest was further piqued when they learned that the story depicted in the 1988 film, "Mississippi Burning," had little to do with the facts of the case upon which it is commonly thought to be based.

Fellow cast member K J Peebles said the group was also intrigued by how closely the Mississippi Burning case was linked to other historic events in our country.

This was their first time competing in the National History Day competition.

"Hopefully, it is just the beginning of our participation because this is something that all youth in Neshoba County should be involved in," said Kaleb Moore.

Leroy Clemons, Executive Director of the Neshoba Youth Coalition, said he he proud of the students.

"I'm very proud of these students. They worked many hours researching and preparing for the competition and their hard work paid off," Clemons said.

The group was also awarded the "Spirit of History Day Award" for outstanding group performance.

Kaleb Moore was awarded the "Spirit of History Day Award" for outstanding individual performer in a group performance.

Clemons was awarded "Spirit of History Day Award" for outstanding teacher for a group performance.

National History Day (NHD) is a highly regarded academic program for elementary and secondary school students. Each year, more than half a million students, encouraged by thousands of teachers nationwide participate in the NHD contest.

Students choose historical topics related to a theme and conduct extensive primary and secondary research through libraries, archives, museums, oral history interviews and historic sites.

After analyzing and interpreting their sources and drawing conclusions about their topics' significance in history, students present their work in original papers, websites, exhibits, performances and documentaries.

These products are entered into competitions in the spring at local, state and national levels where they are evaluated by professional historians and educators.

The program culminates in the Kenneth E. Behring National Contest each June held at the University of Maryland at College Park.

In addition to discovering the exciting world of the past, NHD also helps students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, research and reading skills, oral and written communication and presentation skills, self esteem and confidence as well as a sense of responsibility for and involvement in the democratic process.

More than 5 million students have gone on to careers in business, law, medicine and countless other disciplines where they are putting into practice what they learned through NHD.

The Neshoba Youth Coalition is a leadership program for 8th - 12th grade students design to develop critical thinkers and collaborative leaders.

The group's mission is to empower young men and women of Neshoba County (grades 8-12) to be positive agents of transformation in their community with leadership abilities, collaborative and relationship building skills that lead to changes in their attitudes, behaviors and conditions.

The youth participate in a Youth Roundtable dialogue group to exchange information, share personal stories and experiences, express perspectives, and develop solutions to community and personal concerns.

The purpose is to provide each student with the basic tools, resources and action plans to respond to a leadership role now and in the future.

The youth's areas of focus include: history, education, teen pregnancy, school dropouts and race relations.

Membership in the group is open to all youth of Neshoba County.

For more information about the Neshoba Youth Coalition or if you would like to make a donation to assist the group in travelling to Washington D.C., please contact Clemons at leroyclemons@yahoo.com or call 601-504-3980 or mail correspondence to P. O. Box 1686, Philadelphia, MS. 39350.