Loretta Donoghue

Brunswick Middle School student Loretta Donoghue devoted hours to researching Juanita Jackson Mitchell, the first black woman to practice law in the state. The eighth-grader won a special award for her project at 2015 Maryland History Day in early May.

For her class history project, Brunswick Middle School student Loretta Donoghue stepped beyond the usual bounds and devoted hours to researching Juanita Jackson Mitchell, the first black woman to practice law in the state.

The eighth-grader’s persistence and efforts, which included interviewing a number of Mitchell’s descendants, paid off. She won a special award for her project at 2015 Maryland History Day in early May.

The project, a mini exhibit dubbed “Juanita Jackson Mitchell: A Leader From Then to Now” was an assignment in Loretta’s history class from Scott Strait, who won Brunswick Middle’s 2015 Teacher of the Year award.

Students were limited to 250 of their own words on the project, so Loretta fluffed hers up with quotes, images and anecdotes, all of which required citation. The bibliography was 13 pages.

Loretta’s project, a large black tri-fold, even contains stories from Mitchell’s granddaughter — Loretta got in touch with her by calling Keiffer J. Mitchell, the former state delegate and special adviser to the governor.

“He seemed busy,” she said. “But nice.”

After advancing from the county level of the history day competition, Loretta traveled to the state history day at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Though she won’t advance to the national competition, Loretta made one of the final rounds of the state show, and was recognized for her research in law and society. She will receive a cash prize, though neither she nor her mother, Patty O’Brien, knew the amount.

O’Brien, a scrapbooker in another life, she said, assisted only with piecing together some of the parts of the board. Loretta did all the research.

“I had the cutting tools, I helped print the pictures, cut paper. That was it,” she said — O’Brien estimated investing at least $100 in the exhibit.

Housed in a UMBC ballroom, Loretta said, Maryland History Day featured mostly exhibits similar to hers, but also some incredible crafting, such as a life-size book of sorts, and an interactive poster piece that spun on a stand. Judges came in, inspected the projects, and posed questions to the students.

Loretta said she might not pursue History Day come high school, simply because of the amount of work the project required.

“For every quote and picture, I had to write who said it, and it took hours,” she said. “But it was fun.”

Follow Jeremy Bauer-Wolf on Twitter: @jbeowulf.

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