The Quest for Knowledge: Lewis in Philadelphia

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Philadelphia in 2003: the time, place, plans, schedules, photos, memories, and highlights of the Annual Meeting

The Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation's 35th Annual Meeting in 2003
Monday August 11 Program: Students Read their Winning Essays

A relaxed Aaron reads his winning essay.

A poised Sarah reads her essay. Both students rated much applause!


Katy Hineline, chair of the essay competition, prepares to present Aaron with his award.

Katy congratulates Sarah, her English teacher Anne Dresser, and her mother Lynn.


Aaron with his father, John Shapiro, his mother, Babette Vemel, and his grandfather

Sarah at the Monday evening dinner with her teacher, Anne Dresser, and her mother, Lynn Vitali.

Award Winning Writers

Two Delaware Valley students turned in prize winning 750 word essays to the Philadelphia Chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation (LCTHF) for its regional contest during Philadelphia’s Bicentennial Commemoration of the historic trek.

Tom Davis, a member of the LCTHF board of directors and a member of the Fort Washington School Board, was the program chair for the 35th annual meeting of LCTHF at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel (PSFS Building) four days in August. The agenda included the essay contest, trolley rides and walking tours designed to present a picture of the City in 1803. Philadelphia’s contributions to the preparation of Lewis for the journey were explored, and members visited local institutions which archive the majority of major artifacts from the exploration. The slate held 20 scholars and speakers from local universities and institutions and from across the nation. Other news of the meeting of Lewis and Clark fans may be found at

There were two divisions in the contest, one for middle grades and one for high school. The winners were chosen from 63 entries from 600 schools in the region that were invited to enter. The young writers read their essays before 350 members and visitors from across the country. Chapter President Bob Weir of the Scranton area presented cash awards and certificates to the winners.

Pennwood Middle School’s 8th grader Sarah Vitali of Yardley attributed her success to a “wonderful English teacher,” Anne Dresser. Sarah’s parents are Lynn and Greg Vitali. Her favorite activity is “reading, absolutely!” Sarah also loves singing and acting and being at the pool this summer. At Pennwood, she appeared in several plays and musicals including the Music Man, and Bye, Bye, Birdie. She has also written a play of her own.

Cheltenham High 11th grader Aaron Shapiro of Elkins Park swept the high school entries. In addition to being the junior editor of the Literary Magazine at Cheltenham, Aaron plays the guitar and drums with two bands. His teacher George Reim is described by his family as “an inspiring and fantastic teacher” of the honors American History Program at the school in Wyncote. He is the son of John Shapiro and Babette Vemel.

Katy Hineline, a teacher at the Germantown Friends School was chair of the essay contest. She and two others on her committee, Tom Brady, a social studies educator at Lamberton High School in Philadelphia, and Nancy Davis, of South Philadelphia, co-chair of the national meeting devised and conducted the contest.

The contest challenged the students to plan a journey to an unexplored part of the world today and compare the equipment and supplies that Meriwether Lewis bought in Philadelphia in 1803 for his expedition with what the student might take along now. The students were encouraged to make use of the Chapter’s “Web Winning” site as chosen by the Philadelphia Inquirer which offered resource materials. More ideas for teachers may be found on the Chapter’s website.

Each writer was permitted to take ten items, five from Lewis’s list that the essayist thought would still be useful, and five from today’s vast choice of new inventions.

“It was interesting that all of the finalists chose a GPS or Global Positioning System as one of the new items they would take,” noted Hineline.

The contest instructions also asked the students to consider what training Lewis undertook from mentors of the American Philosophical Society. Then they were required to choose the training they felt they would require today. Part of their challenge was to explain and justify their choices. The essays were required to be typed in Times New Roman font in Word 97 or Word Perfect 5.2 PC format.

Listeners were delighted with the poise and sense of humor with which the essayists handled the readings. Vitali shared that her mother had given her a bit of advice as she left the dining table to mount the stairs to the lectern. “Don’t trip over anything, especially if it’s expensive!”

Aaron revealed that he “had to write this paper to pass his honors history course!” Both readings went off without a hitch and drew great applause from an appreciative audience, who came from 35 states.


Updated August 29, 2003