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“The Changing Face of Virginia” and the 2010 Wyndham B. Blanton Scholars


One of my highlights this past summer was having the opportunity to spend four days and three nights living in freshman dorms at Virginia Commonwealth University. Yes, I said highlight and dorms in the same sentence. I was working with a group of thirteen unique and talented high school juniors and seniors who made up the Virginia Historical Society’s 2010 Blanton Scholars.

The Blanton Scholars program began in 1999. Juniors and seniors from high schools across Virginia applied to attend the annual J. Harvie Wilkinson, Jr., Lecture and a round table discussion led by an author who had written about Virginia history. In the past, students were able to discuss writing techniques and research methods with such authors as Rick Atkinson, David McCullough, and Ron Chernow.

This year, we decided to mix things up a bit and have a two-part program. Selected students from Lynchburg, the Richmond metropolitan area, Chesapeake, and northern Virginia arrived in Richmond on the July 21 and left July 24. These same students will return to the society in October for the Wilkinson lecture with Sandra Day O’Connor.

The theme of the program this year was “The Changing Face of Virginia.” During their stay in Richmond, the scholars toured the VHS and talked to staff members about careers in museums. The students also took a bus and walking tour of downtown Richmond to view for themselves how Richmond has changed over the past several hundred years.

In the evenings, Caroline Legros (school program coordinator), Geoff Cohrs (former outreach educator), and I kept the students busy with a number of activities. In between whiffle-ball tournaments and trips out to dinner on the town, the students created and rehearsed scripts for short video clips that will be incorporated into the Story of Virginia online exhibition. On leaving the society, the scholars were given the assignment to write a blog entry about how the community they live in has changed over the years.

In the next few weeks, I will begin posting blogs from each of the scholars!

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Jennifer Nesossis is an outreach educator at the Virginia Historical Society.

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