Springboard Project: Uncovering Mercersburg’s History
This year, I was in the Springboard class Parallel Histories, where I investigated and researched parts of Mercersburg Academy’s history. At the beginning of the year, I worked with my classmates, Julia Borger ’20, Audrey McGrory ’20, and Aba Sankah ’20, to tell the story of black integration at Mercersburg. After finishing my work with that project, I began my individual project where I researched the lives and deaths of nine men who attended Mercersburg Academy and sacrificed their lives in World War I.
My project was really all about uncovering stories and finding information. I began by looking through old tray cards (which contained some very basic information on the men) in the Prentiss Alumni and Parent Center at North Cottage, scavenging through yearbooks from the 1910s in the hopes of coming upon a picture, and scrolling through Mercersburg News articles to scan the pages for their names. To my dismay, I had little success.
After being frustrated and wondering where to look next, I began searching the Internet, which led me to begin using Ancestry.com and FindAGrave.com. I became totally enthralled and amazed by all that I was finding. I enjoyed it so much that I would spend hours and hours of my free time on Ancestry.com. I think I am probably one of very few 18-year-olds who can say that! During that time, not only did I discover a lot of interesting documents, certificates, and newspaper articles, but I also was able to piece together various family trees to find some of these men’s relatives who are still alive. I emailed and direct messaged many of their relatives, and they all helped me form a better understanding of who each man was.
Toward the end of my research process, I looked through the archives in the basement of the library, where I discovered many letters that had been sent from these nine men, from their parents, or from their commanding officers in the military to founding headmaster Dr. Irvine and his wife. Some of those letters included pretty powerful messages. This was kind of like the cherry on top of the sundae for me because it made each one of the men I researched feel more real.
I had completed the majority of my research by spring break and was eager to return to campus to begin putting my presentation together, but instead, I had to figure out a way to share all of my hard work in a meaningful way without giving an in-person presentation.
With the help of my teacher (Mr. John David Bennett), I was able to create a Keynote presentation (similar to what I would have done had it been in-person) and then record my voice as I went through the presentation. On the day of my presentation, my friends and teachers were able to watch my pre-recorded presentation and then come to a live Q&A session via Google Hangout. For the live Q&A session, it felt so nice to see so many of my teachers and friends come together to support me even though we weren’t really together at all. I definitely felt the Mercersburg love from afar. It was not the ending for which I had hoped, but it was rewarding nonetheless. I just hope that we can truly come together on campus sometime soon.