A short letter from former President Jimmy Carter helped one of the metro-area students snag first place.
A personal letter from former President Jimmy Carter helped a Minneapolis student capture top honors this week in a national history contest.
A five-sentence response from Carter sharing his thoughts on the Panama Canal propelled Nathaniel Larson's website project to the $1,000 first place prize in the National History Day competition.
About 2,400 students competed in the History Channel-sponsored event on the University of Maryland's College Park campus.
Larson, a Lake Harriet Community School student who will be a freshman this fall at Minneapolis Southwest High School, was among nine Twin Cities-area students who brought home national honors and $3,750 in prize money from the competition.
With seven winning entries and a special award commendation, Minnesota's contingent snagged more victories than any other state's.
Larson's project, "Debate and Diplomacy: Panama Canal Treaties" explored the implications of Carter's decision to return control of the Panama Canal to Panama. He won first place in the junior division's individual website competition.
Carter wrote a response to the 14-year-old's letter less than a week after Larson mailed it. Judges at the state competition suggested Larson give it a shot.
"It was amazing to get a response from a major, major player in history," he said.
Carter signed off: "With best wishes for success in the National History Day competition."
Here's a list of Minnesota's other winners:
•Kamran Kelly of St. Paul's Capitol Hill Middle School finished second in the individual website competition for an exploration of Prohibition and the Volstead Act.
•Carly Zimmerman and Maggie Schmidt of Cyber Village Academy in St. Paul won second place in the group category competition for their project on the Dawes Act of 1887.
•In the group exhibit competition, Eve Zelickson and Sophie O'Bryan of Breck School finished second for their project on the Oslo Accords.
•Anna Solomon of Sunrise Park Middle School in White Bear Lake claimed second place for individual documentary by exploring the diplomatic achievements of Eleanor Roosevelt.
•Two students placed in the junior division's individual exhibit competition. Jenn Fabian of Breck School won second for an entry on the Cuban Missile Crisis. Camille Balhorn of Robbinsdale Middle School won third place for a look at the Boundary Waters treaty.The second-place winners claimed $500, and third-place participants took home $250.
Corey Mitchell • 612-673-4491