Jay High School student Molly Bryant loves history.
In fact, for the past four years, she's channeled a passion for learning into a variety of projects - including this year's efforts studying the life of Irena Sendler.
Ask Bryant to describe her project and her eyes light up, as she talks about Sendler's dedication which resulted in countless children's lives saved during the holocaust.
Bryant's passion for telling stories, and bringing history to life, has led her to numerous regional, state and even national history day competitions.
Next week, it will take her one more place.
Bryant is slated to receive the Joseph B. Thoburn Student Historian Award, during the Oklahoma Historical Society's annual History Conference.
The award is one of two slated to be bestowed by members of the historical society during a luncheon at the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel in Catoosa.
The second, the William B. Pennington Teacher Award, will go to her history instructor and mentor, Leah Tyner.
Tyner, who teaches history at Jay Middle School, is being honored for her "outstanding instruction in the field of Oklahoma History."
"I'm so blessed and honored," Bryant said. "I cannot believe I was awarded this honor."
About her project
Bryant said she gets inspiration for her history projects from a variety of sources.
"I love learning about [history]," Bryant said. "I get to see amazing people that lived and get to learn from them. I get to see how things have changed and learn from their example."
This year's project, "Irena Sendler: Resisting Anti-Semitism with Courage and a Carpenter Bag,” developed after Bryant found a small picture of Sendler in the middle of a wall of images last year during a visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C..
"It was such a tiny little picture, for such an extraordinary thing," Bryant said, saying she was drawn to learn more about the "sweet face" toward the bottom section of the wall.
"She saved 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto," Bryant said. "She snuck past the Gestapo 2,500 children - that's the size of Jay. Basically she saved as many people as in my [hometown]. I couldn't believe it."
When Bryant learned this year's History Day theme would revolve around people who took a stand for something in history, she knew her research would center around Sendler's life story.
"I Googled her name," Bryant said. "I knew I had to do a project over this woman. People need to know more about her [and how] she took a stand in Nazi Germany."
A Polish Catholic by birth, Sendler's parents raised her to treat Jewish people equally. In fact, Sendler was kicked out of college when she protested the ill treatment of her Jewish classmates.
Sendler went on to graduate from the Polish Free University, where she would meet people who would influence her actions during WWII.
Bryant said she gets overwhelmed by emotion, as she tells others how Sendler remained "fearless in the face of not only her [potential] death, but children's deaths."
"She put her life on the line to save children," Bryant said. "God forbid, if I'm ever put in a situation like that. I hope I'm as fearless like this.
"She taught me to be fearless, headstrong and not to be afraid, because good wins."
Eventually Sendler was caught, and sentenced to death by the Gestapo. Before her execution, members of the Zegota, the Polish Council to Aid Jews underground movement, were able bribe guards to get her to safety.
The escape came only after Sendler's legs and feet were broken by her captors.
"She deserves reverence and recognition," Bryant said. "I learned you need to be headstrong for what you believe."
More about Bryant
Bryant is the daughter of James and Erin Bryant of Jay. A freshman at Jay High School, Bryant is also a member of the student council. Outside of school, she attends New Hope Baptist Church.
While she loves history, Bryant aspires to become an obstetrician/pediatrician.
"I have always loved science and math," Bryant said. "I want to try and save lives, and this is how I want to do it."
One thing with Bryant
One person who inspires you?
The people in my family - my whole family as a whole, including my sister, brother and my grandparents. I just cherish them so much.
Not to discount my parents, but my grandparents make me want to make the whole family proud. I pray that God will lead me in the right direction.
One book that has stuck with you?
Irena's Children. It's unbelievable to me. It tells about every aspect of her life. You get to see what she says, and understand her mind and thought process. It's just amazing to me how she lived her life. It gives you the whole picture of her life, not just her efforts in WWII.
One thing you can't live without?
My church family. They keep me steady. Then Chick-Fil-A's spicy chicken sandwich with the Chick-Fil-A sauce, french fries and frosted coffee.
One thing that might surprise people?
I love to hunt and be outdoors. I don't seem to be an outdoors person. I love to go hunting with my grandpa, Don Murphy, my dad and my brother, Hunter. Mainly deer hunting.
One piece of advice you've been given?
My dad always says the same two things to me all of the time - adapt and overcome. That's the big thing. In every situation you have to adapt and overcome.
Also, in whatever you are going to be, be the best at it.