When seniors from Amelia High School in Ohio began investigating a forgotten plaque on school grounds, they never expected that a former student’s past could have such a lasting impact more than three decades after his death.
Brad Broughton, an alumnus and soldier who was killed during the Vietnam War in 1968, left his $10,000 GI insurance policy to the high school in Batavia, Ohio. The students who discovered his story have created a documentary about him.
Shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Vicki Ciliberti, an English and broadcasting teacher at the 1,350-student high school near Cincinnati, was shooting a video clip of the school flagpole to use during the Pledge of Allegiance when she saw the plaque.
She recalled Mr. Broughton’s story, but as a 30-year veteran teacher she realized that she was one of the few people remaining at the school who understood the plaque’s significance. Believing that the story needed to be documented, she assigned three seniors in her broadcasting class to uncover Mr. Broughton’s legacy.
“It’s a very touching story,” she said. “The kids learned a lot about local history ... as well as how to interview people and put a good story together.”
The students interviewed Mr. Broughton’s friends and family and also recovered a letter he’d sent to the school and images he took of himself during the war using a dime- store camera.
“I think it put a real face on the Vietnam conflict” for students, Ms. Ciliberti said. “Talking to people who knew Brad and seeing him in the video made the conflict come alive.”
“When Brad and many of his friends enlisted, they did so with the concept of doing the right thing,” Ms. Ciliberti said. “But when they came home, the tide had changed, and instead of being thanked, they had to take off their uniforms to avoid being spit on.”
The documentary was first broadcast on the school’s local show, “Good Morning, Amelia.”
“The junior and senior class were just riveted,” Ms. Ciliberti said.
—Marianne D. Hurst
A version of this article appeared in the May 08, 2002 edition of Education Week