Student Testimonial: William & Mary Pre-College ProgramPosted November 30, 2021, 4:38 pm by
Willa Stonecipher - William & Mary: Pre-College Program in American History
While I always knew that I loved history, the National Institute of American History & Democracy (NIAHD)’s Pre-College Program in American History breathed life into history in a way I had never experienced in a high school classroom. NIAHD has several classes and I decided to take History 217—The Road to the American Revolution. Each day was an adventure, full of new things to learn and new places to see. The daily site visits ranged from spots around Colonial Williamsburg to the Frontier Culture Museum. Each site visit was accompanied by a lively discussion about the significance of the place and the way it can help us better understand the past. Beyond the trips, we had fun activities such as making clay mugs, learning how to English country dance, and doing foodways by making jollof rice! I gained vital academic skills by engaging with essential readings and participating in class discussions, skills which made the transition to college much easier. Not only did the program give me the chance to experience college life and gain practice with academic writing, but I made lifelong friends through the program.
Discovering a Passion
One of the most impactful moments during my time at the NIAHD Pre-College Program was during a weekend field trip to Fairfield Plantation, where we helped excavate the site and screen soil. I clearly remember the sense of wonder I felt when my trowel scraped against a large piece of ceramic. When it was removed from the feature, I became the first person in over a century to touch this piece of salt-glazed earthenware, and I knew in that moment that I wanted to spend my life rediscovering the past.
Back in the Classroom
After my Pre-College experience, I fell in love with the NIAHD program and decided to apply to William & Mary for college. Currently, I am a junior at William & Mary, where I study history and am part of the NIAHD Program in Material Culture & Public History. During the fall semester of my freshman year, I took the NIAHD course “The Era of Jamestown” which covers the history of indigenous people in the area to the establishment of Jamestown and the moving of the capital to Williamsburg in 1699. As part of the class, our professor invited professional historians and archaeologists to come in and talk to us about their work! In my spring semester, I took a class called “Virginia Plantations Then and Now” which explored plantation house museums and their interpretation, or misinterpretation, of slavery.
NIAHD also gave me the phenomenal opportunity to take “Field School in Public History” and this course places the student in an internship at a local museum or historic site. I chose to work at Jamestown Rediscovery as an archaeology intern. Here, I learned about methodology within archaeology, learning how screen soil for artifacts, take field notes and soil samples, identify ceramic types, as well as learning about the behind-the-scenes work that takes place in the lab! This experience helped me realize that I want to go into archaeology as a profession, and I am beyond grateful to NIAHD for helping me realize this and for facilitating my internship at such an amazing site with spectacular people.
Overall, NIAHD has changed the way I view history and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it!