MHS student’s documentary recognized

For the second year in a row, a Marietta High School student will be headed to the National History Day Contest in June after being named a finalist in the Ohio National History Day state contest.

Nora Torbett, 15, a freshman at Marietta High School, placed in the top two in her category at the Ohio National History Day competition April 26 for her documentary titled, “Waiting for a Change: Human Rights in North Korea.”

As one of the youngest in the senior high school age division, Torbett hopes to take home a national title with her 10-minute documentary at the 2014 Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest at the University of Maryland June 15-19.

About 7,000 students in grades four through 12 competed at the state level, and the national competition will include students from all 50 states, two U.S. territories and competitors from Korea, China and South Asian districts.

“I didn’t think I would get this far because I was at the bottom of my division,” Torbett said. “But I was chosen over juniors and seniors in high school that had more knowledge and experience.”

Torbett’s documentary features primary and secondary research images, information and interviews, and was selected as one of two finalists in the documentary category where there were 14 other competitors.

“I chose to do this because I had read a book for Language Arts about a man who escaped from a North Korean prison camp, and the U.S. had been conducting hearings about it,” Torbett said.

The National History Day program gathers competitors to submit work based on a annually-selected theme, which this year was “Rights and Responsibilities,” where both individuals and groups can create papers, exhibits, documentaries, websites and performances based on extensive research.

More than 500,000 students throughout all represented regions compete annually for top prizes in each category, as well as special sponsored prizes that feature cash and scholarship awards.

Last year, Torbett’s documentary did not place at nationals, but her family’s interest in history and her brother’s past participation kept her interest.

Torbett used Sony Vegas software to formulate and edit her video all on her own, without the backing of a teacher.

“I like the documentary because with other projects you can’t use the images and with this you can really control what the viewer sees with music and effects,” she said. “They’re more powerful to me than some other choices.”

Torbett competed as the only one in her documentary category at regional competition at Marietta College.

“I’m a history professor at the college, and last year I knew a bit about the topic, but this year was all new to me,” said David Torbett, Nora’s father. “We were pleased, because we didn’t expect this to happen because it was her first year in this level.”

David said though the family has been 100 percent behind her all the way, Nora took the lead and took on the project alone.

“This year she has learned a lot and she’s moved forward and done everything on her own,” he said. “She has been able to find a story and that story has been able to touch people’s hearts in the way she organizes and presents it.”

Torbett said she is excited to see how her second run goes, but is not sure what the future holds in history.

“I like modern history more than the older stuff, because a lot of this stuff is still going on and relevant,” she said. “But I don’t know about the future, this just gives me a lot of experience in writing, public speaking and having work judged.”