By: Alicia Sands Lurry
Amontay Briggs is one determined young man who doesn’t believe in giving up.
On Saturday, April 16, that dogged determination paid off for Amontay and classmates Justin Howard and Contravious Wells, when the Thomas Heathe Slater Elementary School students took home the top prize during the 2016 Georgia Social Studies Fair at Clayton State University. The three fifth graders earned “Best in Fair” for their project, “Let Freedom Ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Should a Monument be placed on top of Stone Mountain to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?”
As part of their project, the students wrote letters and interviewed leading authorities such as Congressman John Lewis and State Sen. Vincent Fort about their topic. They also received feedback from Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, and conducted surveys of Georgians to gauge their opinions about whether a monument honoring Dr. King should be erected on Stone Mountain.
The young men made history by becoming the first Atlanta Public Schools students in 19 years to win the top prize at the State Social Studies Fair. Their teacher’s daughter, Ashanté Dobbs, won the award in 1997 as a junior at Frederick Douglass High School.
“It feels great, because I always wanted to win state,” said Amontay, who lost the State Social Science Fair in 2015. “I came back this year and accomplished my goal.”
His classmates are just as happy.
“I felt proud to beat all of those other schools,” Justin said.
“It was great to win,” Contravious added.
It was a long road to the State Social Science Fair, which began with the students taking top prize in the Atlanta Public Schools’ Social Science Fair and earning “Best in Fair” at the West Metro Regional Social Science Fair. At the state competition, the Slater students’ project competed against 82 other projects in grades 5-12.
In addition to receiving a plaque and $100, the students won a special $50 award for the best use of the New Georgia Encyclopedia.
Their social studies teacher, Darlene Dobbs, said she’s extremely proud of her students.
“They did it all by themselves, and they were relentless and never quit,” Dobbs said. “They made us proud, and I hope they become anything they want to be.”
The State Social Studies Fair is sponsored by the Georgia Council for the Social Studies. The organization’s mission is to prepare students to be knowledgeable, effective decision makers and engaged citizens in a globally interdependent world.