National History Day in Idaho finalist and Rexburg resident Mariah Wilson, 13, doesn't dream of becoming a curator or a professor. She wants to be a stunt pilot.
"In the summer after fifth grade, I had the opportunity to fly in a stunt plane in the Rexburg air show with Brad Wursten," Wilson said.
"It was an amazing experience. I loved it, I was screaming the whole time. We did loop-de-loops and barrel rolls and all sorts of really fun, exciting things."
Wilson said her experience with flying inspired her to choose World War II's Women Air Force Service Pilots, or the WASP, as the topic for her website submission to the regional National History Day contest.
After winning first in her category, Wilson proceeded to the state level, where she placed second in her age division, qualifying for the national contest. Last week, she flew to Washington, D.C., where she competed against other finalists from a variety of states and countries.
"One of the coolest experiences for me was at the opening ceremonies. They had all of the kids with their T-shirts on and the whole grounds were packed, everyone was cheering. My dad leaned over and was like, 'This is the future our nation,'" Wilson said.
Although she did not place at the national level, Wilson was one of 20 students selected to participate in "A Day On the Hill," where she visited a variety of sites and met Rep. Mike Simpson and Sen. James Risch. She said she was even able to spot White House senior adviser Jared Kushner.
National History Day in Idaho Coordinator Johanna Bringhurst said she was most impressed by Wilson's depth of knowledge about the WASP. She said Wilson not only researched the program and its origination but looked into the stories of individual pilots as well.
"I think the reason she was able to be so knowledgeable about the WASP is because she really cared about her project," Bringhurst said.
"She kind of fell in love with the idea of these female pilots breaking barriers and so she. put a lot of passion and energy into her research."
Wilson's website, titled "Forgotten Flygirls: The WASP of World War II," tells the story of the WASP through the lens of the contest's theme, "Conflict and Compromise."
"Despite facing conflicts from the military, media, government, and within the organization itself, the flygirls. persevered," the website reads.
"Because of their willingness to compromise their individual equality and personal safety to combat
gender injustices, these women flew farther into military skies than any American women ever had."
The WASP program disbanded in 1944 after the end of World War II due to pressure from male pilots and the government, leaving. the women with no rank or benefits, according to the website. It wasn't until 1976 that women would again be allowed to fly military aircraft and 1977 that President Jimmy Carter signed a bill giving WASP veterans benefits and recognition.
Wilson said she began work on her project during the summer of 2017 and spent more than 100 hours on it as part of a class she took at Madison Junior High School.
The National History Day contest has three age divisions, spanning grades 4 through 12, and five categories of projects, which include exhibits, websites, documentaries, performances, and exhibits. Students may also choose to do their projects individually or in a group.
Wilson said she chose to do a website because it allowed flexibility and was inexpensive to create and transport.