Brianna McGuire, a 2017 graduate of River Valley High School, recently completed a student ambassadorship for the The National WWII Museum, an opportunity that arose through her participation in the National History Day program during her middle and high school years.
It was during the national contest held at the University of Maryland each year that McGuire was introduced to the The National WWII Museum ambassador program during a presentation. She applied the fall of her senior year and was awarded one of the eight spots nationwide for 2017.
“I have a great interest in studying WWII history due to my experiences with National History Day and I was excited to apply for the program,” said McGuire.
Now in its fourth year, Collin Makamson, assistant director of education for curriculum at the museum said their partnership with National History Day serves as a recruiting tool to assist them in identifying students interested in WWII histories, specifically oral histories. Each year they choose a limited number of students to assist the museum in gathering oral histories of those who either served during WWII or lived during that era, before those stories are gone forever.
“While we at the museum have professional oral historians on staff, we thought we would cast a wider net and see if students could interview and reach out to veterans in their area, while also giving them experience of talking to someone from an older generation, bridging that gap,” said Makamson. “While there is still time to do so.”
During her tenure, McGuire was tasked with filming five interviews that capture the American experience of WWII, following online training sessions that prepared her for conducting a proper interview. One of those interviews featured her grandmother, Mary Ann McGuire, who was a child during the era.
“I have interviewed veterans and children during WWII. I have learned about the different roles that people served during the war and how each role was important,” said McGuire. “Every American played a role in the WWII whether they were in combat, working on machinery, or gathering spare tin foil after school to contribute to the war effort. It took the entire nation.”
Makamson said dedication to the program and the ability to create a strategic plan and organize their time are key attributes the museum looks for in program candidates, who are often high-achieving students with demanding academic and extracurricular activity schedules.
“They’re taking on an immense amount of work in wanting to do this. Not only wanting to do it, they’re volunteering to do it,” said Makamson. “So, to me, it was the way [Brianna] was able to balance her very, very demanding course load and extracurricular and personal life and still, in the process, collect some invaluable oral histories for us that she can, at the end of this time in the program, say that there are five or six individuals whose stories will be preserved into perpetuity thanks to her hard work.”
While McGuire’s participation in the program is complete, Makamson said those who would like to tell their stories can reach out directly to the museum at email@example.com. Guidelines can be found on the museum’s website.
“If someone has a great story to tell, we don’t want to miss that opportunity, especially because it really is a race against time,” said Makamson.
The museum currently possesses approximately 9,500 oral histories, which are shot on HD video. Some of those histories are available to view online at ww2online.org. Makamson said they are working to digitize and archive all of the histories.
Originally opened as The National D-Day Museum in 2000, the institution was officially designated America’s National WWII Museum by a 2004 act of Congress. It is located at 945 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA.
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Mcguire is the daughter of Keith and Janet McGuire and is currently attending Youngstown State University, where she is majoring in marketing management.