Student credits sec. of state for inspiring her in competition - WSMV News 4

Student credits sec. of state for inspiring her in competition

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A local teen bounced back from a crushing defeat to become one of the top history students in the nation. She said her comeback was largely in part to some words of wisdom from the Tennessee secretary of state.

"My goal is to become a congresswoman and change the world," Brittany Wilharm said.

A loss after five years of competing in National History Day contests was devastating for the student.

"I did my whole paper on suffrage and all of this, and I thought it was pretty good. I spent a lot of time on it," Wilharm said. "I was sitting outside the auditorium just crying."

But Secretary of State Tre Hargett saw her tears and offered some kind words of support.

"I said, 'did you give it your best?' And she said, 'yes.' So I said, 'if you give God your best, you have nothing to be ashamed of. And God's got a plan in all of this,'" Hargett said.

That led to Wilharm's mother sending an email thanking Hargett and expressing her daughter's interest in working for his office. That, in turn, led to an internship.

"I can say, I knew her when. So that's really a special part of my life, but I think that is not just being part of public service. That's what we all are called to do, to find the good and be encourageous to others. Especially in the darkest of times," Hargett said.

This year, Wilharm gave the history competition one final try and produced a winning project on a revolutionary surgeon.

"And his patient lived to be 79 even though she had a 22-pound ovarian tumor. And no one had ever really cut into the abdomen before," Wilharm said.

Wilharm claimed a first-place prize at the regional and state levels and a legacy prize, which makes her the only teen in the nation representing National History Day in Washington, DC, next spring.

"This is really big. To think that she will be meeting a Nobel Peace Prize winner or Pulitzer winner, and they want to hear what she has to say. That just blows me away as a mom," said mother Sharon Wilharm.

In the meantime, Brittany Wilharm is beginning her political career this summer by knocking on doors as a campaign worker with State Rep. Joshua Evans, R-Greenbrier.

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