WENATCHEE — Sixteen-year-old James Byrd likes video games, lacrosse, computer science, and George Washington. His interest in the country’s first president recently earned him the Mount Vernon Award for the 2023 Student of the Year Prize for Excellence and Civics.
Byrd and another student from Hawaii are the only students in the nation to receive the award and he will receive a $5,000 scholarship.
The home-schooled Wenatchee local, now a running start student at Wenatchee Valley College, was last year’s state president of the Children of the American Revolution.
For his statewide service project, Byrd created an educational, one-act, 15-minute performance to teach children about the Founding Father titled; “George Washington; Our State’s Namesake.”
“I was very excited to learn that I earned it, and I worked really hard the previous year doing my speeches and talks with groups, so it was really exciting for me to see that payoff,” Byrd said.
He went to different schools and organizations around the state dressed as George Washington to give his presentation.
To get accurate information for his play, Byrd said he had to research all the information himself.
He said the audiences would range from eight people to around 100 people.
Byrd is a descendant of people who fought in the American Revolution, and he is also a member of the Chickasaw Nation.
He said having roots from both colonists and Native Americans gave him a perspective to want to look at any issue from different sides.
“It’s really interesting that I have both sides of Native American and colonials, they intersect a lot, and it really makes me interested in learning American history because it often ties in with my history,” Byrd said. “I’m a descendant of a chief of the Chickasaw and someone who fought in the American Revolution.
Currently, Byrd is the chairman of the National American Indian Committee and earlier this year he was a state congressional page for Sen. Brad Hawkins.
Byrd plans to attend a four-year university after he completes his two-year degree at WVC.