Minnesota student, teacher chosen to participate in national WWII history research program

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A Minnesota student and his teacher are one of 16 teams across the country selected to be a part of a prestigious history experience.

As a part of the National History Day program, Gavin Klabechek, a sophomore at North Lakes Academy in Forest Lake, and his history teacher, Chris Stewart will spend the next 6 months researching the U.S. Pacific involvement in WWII. It’s called the Sacrifice for Freedom: World War II in the Pacific Student & Teacher Institute.

“When Mr. Stewart, my teacher, approached me with this opportunity I took it,” Klabechek said. Although he has always loved history, he credits Mr. Stewart with igniting a spark when it comes to learning about WWII and the individual stories of U.S. veterans.

“It’s about telling stories and we have to know our history because it impacts us,” Klabechek said.

As a student-teacher research team, Klabechek and Stewart will spend the next 6 months profiling a Minnesota veteran involved in WWII in the Pacific. They’re in process of selecting that veteran right now but will have to choose someone who is either buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, or they have been considered missing after their service in Hawaii.

Klabechek and Stewart will learn everything they can about that veteran, and then in June, they’ll both travel to Hawaii to eulogize the veteran and complete their research in the place where it all happened.

“Not only do we get that place-based education, we get to learn while we’re in Hawaii,” Stewart said, “But we also get the chance to kind of connect back to our Minnesota roots… To bring a piece of Minnesota with us to Hawaii is really a powerful experience and I can’t really prepare Gavin for how powerful that’s going to be.”

Klabecheck said he’s honored to be selected for the program and to be a part of this research.

“I think we do have an obligation to tell veterans’ stories and remember them because of what they gave to us and what they sacrificed for us to be here really, and the ability to be able to pay that forward and remember them and commemorate them is part of why I wanted to do this,” Klabechek said.