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COL Benefactor becomes history lesson

Even today, 34 years after his death in Vietnam, Brad Braughton is teaching young people in the Cincinnati suburb of West Clermont.

Hibbing and many Iron Range communities have memorials to some of their heroes. Vicki Ciliberti, a veteran West Clermont high school teacher, found a way to help her students understand who the school had honored years ago.

Lacy Pez, 18, recalls that "like many seniors, it was hard to get us motivated. But when Mrs. Ciliberti suggested that we try to find out more Brad Braughton, we thought it might be interesting."

The Amelia High School stadium is named Braughton Memorial Field, but virtually none of the school's students knew anything about him. Pez and two other students, Matt Smith and Lauren Friedman, decided to find out as much as they could. They interviewed his sister, the school's former athletic director and one of Brad's friends. They also read letters written by Brad and watched film Brad and his friends had taken.

The result is a powerful 12-minute videotape, which has been shown throughout the school, showing a friendly, happy young man. As the tape notes, he had been voted "most friendly student" and prom king during his senior year. He enlisted shortly after graduating and became a sergeant in the 101st Army Airborne division, with 10 men reporting to him. The tape quotes his letter describing a firefight: "It's a lot different over here. I used to think that football games are rough."

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Learning that the Army provided a $10,000 life insurance policy, Brad asked his parents if he could name them as beneficiaries. They declined. So he wrote to his high school athletic director, who accepted. Brad soon received a Purple Heart when he was shot. But he survived and wrote to his family about the incident, in which he had been helping one of the soldiers in his command when a piece of shrapnel slammed into his leg.

On Jan. 31, 1968, Braughton died, ironically, the victim of friendly fire.

The school received $10,000 and used it, as he had requested, to make improvements on its campus, including the athletic field that was then named Braughton Memorial Field.

For a copy of this tape, plus an explanation of how students carried out this project, send a check for $8, payable to Amelia High School, to Mrs. Vicki Ciliberti, c/o Amelia High School, 1351 Clough Pike, Batavia, Ohio, 45103.

Mrs. Ciliberti has taught for 30 years, all at Amelia. She's taught an array of English classes, including, as I watched recently, a class on Shakespeare, where students were acting out Act One, Scene One of "Othello."

"I've always tried to help students make connections, and push them to do their very best work," she said.

This videotape is a great example. Ciliberti found a way to have someone who died 34 years ago touch the lives of her students. That's great teaching.

Nathan is a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota's Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and director of the institute's Center for School Change.

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