MONMOUTH — Cody Roy said he first heard about the Acadian deportation of the 1700s in seventh grade from a substitute French teacher of Acadian descent. Four years later, he and four classmates created a 10-minute documentary on the subject that received an award during a national history contest.

Roy, Maddie Amero, Abbey Allen, Devon Poisson and Dylan Goff’s presentation of their documentary was chosen as the best presentation from Maine by the National Park Service during the National History Day contest at the University of Maryland. Monmouth Academy history teacher Jocelyn Gray presented the quintet with medals during a short ceremony Thursday afternoon in front of parents, grandparents and officials from Regional School Unit 2.

“It’s an incredible achievement and we’re so proud of them,” said Superintendent Bill Zima. “I would love to say I know (a lot about the Acadian deportation), but I’m dying to know more.”

The expulsion of the Acadians was the forced removal by the British of the Acadian people from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, also known as Acadia.

According to the Canadian-American Center at the University of Maine, the expulsion lasted from 1755 until 1778. More than 10,000 Acadians were deported from their home in Nova Scotia. Descendants of displaced Acadians who settled in Louisiana are known as Cajuns.

For the Monmouth Academy students, the history project proved to be “an awesome achievement” because the students worked on the project on their own time in addition to a full class schedule, Gray said.

“Their work ethic is amazing,” Gray said. “They realized the Acadians were so passionate about their history and they wanted to represent how important this heritage is to them.”

To create a 10-minute documentary, the students did extensive research including reviewing archival documents at the Maine State Museum, speaking with people from the Acadian Museum in Erath, Louisiana, and exploring the Acadian influence in Calais.

Roy said the substitute teacher went out of her way to teach the students about the subject because it was clearly important to her and her family’s history.

“It’s not something they normally teach you in school,” Roy said. “A few of us knew a little bit about it, and we wanted to think of something relative to this area.” One of American poet and Portland native Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s most famous poems is “Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie,” about an Acadian girl searching for her long, lost love during the expulsion.

Roy said the current talk by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump about the deportation of illegal immigrants has similarities to what happened to the Acadians more than 250 years ago.

“It’s a pretty similar thing but on a more massive scale,” Roy said. “It puts it into perspective, because we read a lot about specific families that were split,” which could happen under Trump’s plan.

The Monmouth Academy group placed second during April’s state competition, allowing them to compete in the national competition at the University of Maryland in June. A group from Morse High School in Bath was the first-place winner for a project called “Africa: The Explorations of David Livingstone.”

Three of the students spent a week in the nation’s capital visiting local sites and participating in the competition while staying in dorms on the Maryland campus in College Park.

“We got to do a lot of things and see a lot of landmarks,” Roy said. “The competition was definitely the highlight.”

The same group of students is already thinking about their documentary project for the 2017 competition, and they’ve already told Gray they plan to begin working in October instead of January.

The theme for this year is “Taking a Stand in History,” and the students have chosen to create a documentary on the Milan Conference in 1880, which banned the use of sign language in schools across the United States and Europe.

“To be honest, none of us know anything about it, which is one of the reasons why we picked it,” Goff said. “There isn’t much of a challenge in doing a project about something you already know.”

Goff said they plan to incorporate sign language into their documentary. He said as a group they might know a few words.

“When you have something that you haven’t learned about at all and that the general public doesn’t know a lot about, it’s all that more interesting to do and the project can be that much more creative,” he said.

National History Day started as a local competition in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1974 with 129 student participants. Last year, the 42nd year of the contest, more than 600,000 students and about 30,000 teachers took part and were awarded more than $150,000 in prizes and scholarships.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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