Sevier student takes first place in history paper competition

Rick Wagner • Mar 9, 2019 at 8:30 PM

GREENEVILLE — An eighth-grade student from Kingsport’s Sevier Middle School has won a first-place award in a regional history contest held at Tusculum University, meaning he will move forward to a statewide competition next month.

In the junior individual paper category, first place went to Balagopalan “Balu” Pushkas for “The Triumphs and Tragedies of Napoleon Bonaparte.” Other winners were from throughout Northeast Tennessee. Students from elementary schools, middle schools and high schools were honored at the recent event for their contributions to understanding different aspects of history.

The other Tri-Cities winners, Diya Reddy and Anjali Ananthula of University School, got first place for a junior group website on “The Secrets of DNA: Rosalind Franklin.”  First and second place winners will advance to the state level, the Tennessee History Day contest, in the spring in Nashville. The Tennessee Historical Society will sponsor that event. The first and second place winners at the state will compete in the National History Day contest in Washington in June.

Tusculum administered the district competition held March 4 as part of the National History Day contest and helped present awards to students who explored historical topics using a variety of media. The students showed and demonstrated their material to judges from the community and the university, and Balu chose the story of Napoleon, known forever more for his military defeat at Waterloo.

“That was a pretty close one compared to the other ones,” Balu said of Napoleon’s other major defeats in Egypt and Russia.

 “I just like knowing stuff. It’s always interesting, especially European history,” Balu said. “He (Napoleon) never did anything half-hearted.”

This marked Balu’s first entry in the contest.

Balu is the son of Manju and Gopalan Pushkas. He has a younger brother, Harikrishan “Hari” Pushkas. Balu is co-editor of the Sequoya Scribe, Sevier’s student newspaper, where he has worked since sixth grade.

He also won this academic year’s spelling bee at Sevier, won third place in the geography bee and is on the Science Bowl and Science Olympiad teams. He got three first and one second place finish at a regional Olympiad competition at East Tennessee State University recently. Sevier’s team finished second overall, behind Robinson Middle, and both will compete in Nashville April 6 at the state Olympiad competition.

Through a Duke University academic talent search last year, Balu took the ACT exam and scored a 29 overall as a seventh-grader. As for his plans, Balu said “something is science” will be his academic future, possibly something to do with either space or genetics. 

Students competing in the Tusculum event could participate in five categories: exhibits, websites, papers, performances and documentaries. They could submit as either individuals or groups in each category except papers and needed to pick a subject that matched the theme “Triumph and Tragedy.” Balu said he worked a few months on research about Napoleon but actually wrote the paper over a weekend. 

Among the subjects students addressed were Gettysburg, the Battle of Kings Mountain, the Titanic, rifles, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Walt Disney, Harriet Tubman, Wilma Rudolph and the horse breeder responsible for Secretariat. Students are encouraged to incorporate something a judge might not already know and are required to use primary sources such as letters, photographs and diary entries for their information.

Other schools that participated were Chuckey-Doak Middle School in Afton, Cosby High School in Cosby, DeBusk Elementary School in Greeneville, Sevier, Mosheim Elementary School in Mosheim, Nolachuckey Elementary School in Greeneville and South Greene High School in Greeneville.



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