Marisa Atkinson (Campbell)

NHD 1991

Where do you currently live?

What is your current occupation?
English and Human Geography Teacher
I practiced law for about 9 years before changing to my current career of teaching.

What school did you attend while participating in NHD?
Cedar Bayou Junior High School, Baytown, Texas

What college did you attend?
I attended Mississippi State University where I earned a B.A. in communication (with an emphasis in public relations). I also have a J.D. from the University of Mississippi School of Law.

Who were your teachers?
Mrs. Fredlyn Kluch & W.C. Smith

What years and in what category did you participate in NHD?
1991, Individual Performance

What are a few of your favorite or defining moments from your NHD experience?
My performance was about the racial integration of Ole Miss (the University of Mississippi) by James Meredith. As part of my research I reached out to Mr. Meredith who sent me an autographed book about his experience. I also interviewed the son of the governor of Mississippi during that time, Ross Barnett. I thought it was totally cool to have such awesome primary sources. At NHD itself, being called back for finals in the individual performance category as a first-timer, was incredible. I also enjoyed meeting NHD contestants from other states and dispelling stereotypes/rumors about the state of Texas.

How did NHD help you after high school?
From NHD I learned the power of research and asking questions. Those two pearls of wisdom helped me throughout high school, college, law school and life in general by (1) not being afraid to question and (2) consulting all sorts of sources (whatever they might be) to understand the complete story of something (a person or an event) and/or to bolster and support your own ideas and arguments. This is what I constantly teach my English students–have evidence to support your idea/claim. NHD also instilled in me the idea that everyone and everything has a story, something that I constantly tell my journalism students.

What recognition did you receive for participating in NHD?
At NHD I placed in the top 10, which I was rather proud of since it was my first time at that level of competition and all the other competitors were older and more experienced.

Did you do anything with your NHD project or research after the contest year?
I did not. However, in 2011 I actually ran into James Meredith at the Mississippi premier of the movie The Help (which I appeared in as an extra). I relayed to him that over 20 years ago the two of us made it to the National History Day Contest with my history project. He was rather pleased.

What has kept you busy since your days as an NHD student? Any particular challenges, stories, or achievements?
Since my days as an NHD student I have stayed busy by continuing to be a student in every aspect of my life, traveling, and growing up with my four sons.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about your NHD experience?
My NHD experience is one of my favorite experiences in my life!