Wisconsin student wins national prize for performance project about an unsung hero

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DOUSMAN, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A Wisconsin student received a big surprise Thursday, Sept. 15, proving hard work pays off.

It comes after her research project helped provide an inspiring history lesson.

The Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes holds a yearly competition that yields hundreds of submissions from students across the country.

The LMC Discovery award is for projects students create about unsung heroes - people who changed history - with little credit.

Kettle Moraine Middle School teacher, Terry Kaldhusdal, encouraged his students to work on projects for the contest.

"I just feel in this world today, we need heroes. My students need heroes, I need a hero, and so I just felt like it was perfect timing for my students, the community, and the state of Wisconsin," Kaldhusdal said.

One of those students received a well-earned honor.

Now-freshman, Emma Manion, won LMC's national award for Outstanding Middle School project.

"I'm feeling, honestly, kind of shocked right now. I was not expecting this," Manion said at Thursday's surprise award ceremony.

Emma created a performance about Lutie Stearns, the woman who pioneered libraries in Wisconsin during the 1890s.

"I really felt like, because she was such a big inspiration to me, that she could really be a great role model for everyone," Manion said.

The project took her a year to research, starting when she was in 8th grade.

"I really went into the community and did a lot of outreach. I talked to librarians, I talked to people at the Wisconsin Historical Society, I visited her gravesite," Manion said.

Along with a $2,000 prize, Emma's piece will be displayed at the LMC's Unsung Heroes Museum in Fort Scott, Kansas.

"Emma has a tremendous knowledge about her subject. We love seeing that with these students. They become the expert in the subject, the topic they have," said the museum's CEO, Norm Conard.

The competition and project are a way to inspire through history, while teaching special research skills.

"To see one of my students be recognized for working hard outside of the classroom, it's magic," Kaldhusdal said.

Emma said she plans to use her prize money toward her college education.

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