WILLIAMS BAY — Braiya Nolan has become the first Wisconsin high school student named a student ambassador with The National World War II Museum.
The sophomore at Williams Bay High School is one of eight high school students selected nationwide by the national museum in New Orleans to prepare and collect videos of those who lived through the World War II era as veterans, holocaust survivors or home service workers.
Because those veterans, survivors and workers are passing away in large numbers, Braiya is probably one of the last students who be a part of the student ambassador program.
“The interviews I collect will be kept by the museum in their archives and used for research and as apart of their galleries at the museum,” Braiya said.
Braiya she received an application to become an ambassador for the National World War II Museum shortly after the National History Day competition last year. She was notified in November that she was one of eight selected from 28 to be this year’s ambassadors.
Over the coming year, Braiya will interview five people in Wisconsin about their World War II experiences, and then send those video-recorded interview the museum.
Braiya, who maintains a high-A grade-point average at Williams Bay, has a strong interest in history and is a member of the Williams Bay High School History Club.
“We are very pleased to hear that Braiya has been accepted into this program,” history club adviser Deb Soplanda said.
National History Day participants were invited to apply to become part of the student ambassador program, which is a partnership between the National World War II Museum and National History Day.
The museum was founded in 2000 as the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans. Four years later, Congress designated it has the National World War II Museum.
The museum started the student ambassador program in 2015. Since then, students have collected more than 100 oral histories in communities across the country.
“This is a way to engage high school students,” said Adam Foreman, director of student programs at the museum.
Foreman said the program teaches students skills, including conducting interviews, writing, and audio and video technology.
Applications are collected among students in the National History Day. The museum receives 30 to 50 applications each year, and a committee at the museum then picks eight ambassadors.
There is no need to check grades.
“They are all National History Day students,” Foreman said. “They’re already high-achieving students.”
As a freshman last year, Braiya was a finalist in the Wisconsin National History Day competition and competed in the National History Day competition at the University of Maryland.
Student ambassador applicants submit their National History Day project, and also write a short essay of what kind of impact they would have on the WWII program.
“They’re all qualified,” Foreman said. “So it is very difficult to select ambassadors,” he said.
Braiya is the first Wisconsin student selected to be a part of the museum’s ambassador program, giving the museum a chance to capture WWII stories in Wisconsin for the first time.
“It was exciting to see her application,” Foreman said.
Student ambassadors receive a $1,000 stipend to pay for equipment, and they receive a special email address through which they can make contacts for interviews.
Braiya plans to use the stipend to buy a camera and equipment for her interviews.
She and the other ambassadors are receiving online training in interviewing. And she has been practicing her skills by interviewing neighbors, friends and family.
But the interviewing is not the hard part. The hard part is finding people who were around during WWII.
So far, she has found one person to interview, but that person lives north of the Dells. That would be a difficult trip, she said.
Braiya is reaching out to local veterans groups for helping in locating veterans in the Walworth County area that she could interview for the program.
Braiya said she hopes to nail down her first interview sometime in late February or early March.
“It depends on how and where I find these veterans,” she said.
Foreman said it is not surprising that Braiya is finding it difficult to set up interviews. The student ambassador program is ending after this year for that very reason — it is getting difficult for students to find WWII veterans.
In addition to the student ambassador program, the museum has four or five professional oral historians on the road looking for people who were in the service during the war.