Bonita Springs middle schooler represents Florida in history contest

Reporter: Lindsey Sablan Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

An eighth grader from Bonita Springs is headed to Washington, D.C. to represent the entire state of Florida in the National History Day contest.

When she’s not playing American Red Cross founder Clara Barton, Elsee Cribbs is an eighth grade student at Bonita Springs Middle Center for the Arts. Her one-girl show started as a class project in August.

When WINK News met with Elsee, she said she planned to take the project further.

“All my years of middle school, I have done History Fair,” Elsee said.

History Day contests require students to come up with a topic in line with a designated theme, then research it and develop a presentation. The theme for 2023 is “Frontiers in History.”

Elsee focused on the Civil War and advances in medicine that Clara Barton ushered in.

“Clara Barton talks to a medical class about the new advancements of the Civil War,” Elsee said, summarizing her presentation.

For 10 minutes, she jumps between the 21st and 19th centuries, using the Red Cross founder to explain how the war led to germ-free care and ambulances.

Elsee beat out the competition at the district level, then took home the win at the state level in May.

“I’m walking across that stage, and I’m looking into the huge crowd; it’s just so surreal in that I finally did it,” Elsee said.

Her teacher Charndra Carias is just as excited and says the presentation is what sold her.

“Her willingness to kind of delve into the character so much and to take on that persona,” Carias said.

But the research was also a big part.

“This year, I have over 62 sources in my bibliography,” Elsee said. “Sixty-two sources, 42 of them being primary.”

The wealth of sources is not surprising: Elsee’s parents are both journalists and former WINK News employees.

The National History Day contest runs from June 11 to June 15. Elsee is the first student from her school to ever qualify.

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