Wenatchee running start student James Byrd has been selected as the 2023 High School recipient of the Mount Vernon Prize for Excellence in Civics and History.

Byrd was the only high school student in the nation to earn the distinction.

The Mount Vernon Prize for Excellence in Civics and History recognizes outstanding middle and high school students who apply their understanding of George Washington’s life and legacy within their classrooms, schools, or communities.

James Byrd photo provided
James Byrd photo provided

James won for his performance piece, "George Washington: Our State's Namesake." Realizing that his peers were unfamiliar with the state’s namesake, James set out to connect audiences with the history of the Nation’s first president.

According to the website George Washington' Mount Vernon, Byrd's one-act play focuses on George Washington's childhood and young adult life, based on primary source documents. He followed each performance with an audience Q&A session, fielding questions, often challenging especially when people asked him about George Washington as a slaveholder.

As a member of the Chickasaw Nation, James noted the significance of President Washington establishment of diplomatic ties with Chickasaw leaders to uphold Chickasaw sovereignty.

James performed this play over 25 times in 6 months, before audiences from 5 to 100.  The play was his state-wide service project for the Washington State Chapter of the Children of the American Revolution (C.A.R), of which he is also president.

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Here is an interview with James Byrd explaining his project in more detail and the Children of the American Revolution organization. He also elaborates on the importance of understanding the U.S. Constitution and our nation's history.

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