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Lowell Milken Center’s $10,000 International “Discovery Award” Goes to Virginia Journalism Teacher and Students Who Shine Light on African-American Civil Rights Journalist

Using project-based learning, students reveal story of L. Alex Wilson, the African-American reporter whose courage changed civil rights history

Fort Scott, Kansas (October 10, 2013) — The $10,000 grand prize in the Lowell Milken Center’s international Discovery Award competition goes to journalism teacher Chris Waugaman and students Becky Shumar, Jasmine Lackey, Korrina Smith, Caleb Johnson and Destiny Banks of Prince George High School, Prince George, Va., for “We Are Newspapermen: The Man Who Refused to Run.” The project’s comprehensive and historical website brings to life the largely forgotten story of African-American reporter L. Alex Wilson.

The Lowell Milken Center (LMC), based in Fort Scott, Kansas, is dedicated to “repairing the world” through project-based learning. LMC created the Discovery Award to inspire students to uncover unsung heroes and carry out these legacies in their own communities. 

“We Are Newspapermen: The Man Who Refused to Run”

On September 23, 1957, Wilson was brutally attacked by a savage mob as he attempted to report on the story of “The Little Rock Nine.” Against the odds, he stood strong and did not back down. When a photograph of Wilson made the front-page of newspapers across the nation, it prompted President Eisenhower to call in federal support. The course of history was changed by an individual’s courage.

According to LMC Executive Director Norman Conard, “Teacher Chris Waugaman and the young journalists at Prince George High skillfully used project-based learning to reveal the legacy of L. Alex Wilson, a role model for journalists today and in the future.” 

"We are Newspapermen" Lowell Milken Center 2013 Discovery Award Winner

Website developed by students to tell the story of L. Alex Wilson, with interview footage, research resources and interactive guides.

Student Caleb Johnson, now a freshman at William and Mary, said, "This learning experience offered the thrill of real-time discovery and learning as we actually sat down (on Skype of course) with people who were directly related to L. Alex Wilson…. We were the researchers, the reporters, the teachers and the students." The site’s featured videos include interviews with Wilson’s widow, Emogene Wilson, and his black journalist colleague, Moses Newson, among others. Learn more about the project here:

With entries from across the nation and abroad, it is quite a feat that a Prince George County Schools educator and students have taken first place two years in a row. In 2012, Stephanie Bishop’s Prince George High students were honored for the performance “Walk With Me: Civil Rights.” (Bishop is now assistant principal at J.E.J. Moore Middle School in Disputanta, Vir.) “The judges were unequivocal in their decision based on the quality and depth of the projects both years of the competition,” said Conard. “Little did they know that Bishop and Waugaman are actually married to one another! I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that Prince George County has one of the nation’s most outstanding couples in teaching.”

See the photos from the presentation at:

Additional 2013 Discovery Awards recognized excellence in project-based learning for the following:

2nd Place ($2,000): Student Mary Fischer at the American School in Fort Scott, Kan., part of the Kansas Homeschool Network, researched, scripted and performed “Gone Too Soon” about photographer Therese Frare, whose iconic 1990 photograph in Life magazine of David Kirby, a gay man dying of AIDS, was a turning point in AIDS awareness. Fischer continues to perform “Gone Too Soon” for visitors at the Lowell Milken Center and venues throughout the region.

3rd Place ($1,000): Teacher Deb Nelson and students Monica Nelson, Sarah Becker and William Menor at JPII Homeschool in Ham Lake, Minn., used project-based learning to tell the story through performance of “Ida Tarbell, an Unsung Hero: Using Journalism to Repair the World.” Tarbell’s pioneering exposé of Standard Oil in the early 1900s turned the tide on sensationalized, exaggerated reporting with a new form of journalism geared to bring about change. The students interviewed 10 contemporary journalists, including Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Walt Bogdanich.

International Award ($1,000): “Under the Seagull’s Wings” presents the research of Polish educators Marzanna Pogorzelska, Jakub Maczynski and Grazyna Stelmach, and students Piotr Larysz, Karolina Rytel, Mateusz Stelmach and Anna Weglorz at the I LO im. H. Sienkiewicza school in Kedzierzyn-Kozle. Their website sets the scene: “In the far corner of Poland, in the little town of Czortkow and in the middle of Nazi horror, one person saved the life of another and influenced the lives of many other people throughout years….We tell the story of the small Jewish girl Inka and her rescuer, [an older girl] Maria Mikusz.” Maria’s wartime nickname was “Meva,” which means “seagull” in Polish. The students’ research included interviews with Meva herself.

“The project made me and the students spread our wings and believe that wherever you live, even if it is a small town in the corner of Poland, you can discover a part of inspiring history,” said Marzanna Pogorzelska, a Polish educator who launched the Lowell Milken Center Europe in 2013.

Primary/Middle School Award ($1,000): Fifth grader Nick Drinane – under the guidance of Challenge teacher for the gifted, Kerin Motsinger, at Park View Elementary School, Glen Ellyn, Ill. – collaborated with fellow students to research “Jacob Valentine II, Father of the Refuge,” a pioneering advocate for wildlife sanctuaries. To showcase the students’ findings, Drinane developed a website ( that includes interviews and historic photos. He described Valentine as “a role model for how people should treat each other and especially how they should consider the earth we live on and share with other creatures.” 

The Discovery Award competition requires projects to be classified as either documentary/multimedia; performance or website. Criteria include: 

  • Portrayal of an unsung hero whose work has shown impact over time and has shown a change in history;
  • Originality of the topic and research;
  • Potential for life beyond the development of the project; and
  • Ability to inspire students to take sustainable actions to continue the legacies of their subjects.

Participants are encouraged to develop their projects during the school year in which they enter the competition. The awards are open to students from grades 4-12 who are enrolled in a U.S. or international school. 

Projects are judged by educators who are experts in project-based learning, those whose own students have been recognized on a national level over the past three decades. Judges look for projects which demonstrate impact, creativity and outstanding primary research.

Established in 2007, the Lowell Milken Center discovers, develops and communicates the stories of unsung heroes who have made a profound and positive difference in the course of history. LMC is based in Fort Scott, Kansas, and opens its doors to the world. In just six years, it has reached more than 6,350 schools and 805,000 students in all 50 states and 27 countries. Learn more about the Lowell Milken Center and how to enter the 2013-14 Discovery Award competition at

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To support the Lowell Milken Center and projects like the Discovery Award, visit


Bonnie Somers