Work ethic, writing ability leads Pine-Richland eighth-grader to state recognition

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

A fondness for English and social studies paid off for Joey Mullen, 14.

His report on an 18th-century libel trial won the junior individual historical paper category of the National History Day Pennsylvania competition, held May 3 and 4 at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County.

“We're really excited. We were hopeful, but it was unexpected,” said his father, Daniel Mullen. “He put a lot of work in, but you never know when you compete in those things.“

Joey discussed his 2,500-word paper with judges in the National History Day Competition at the University of Maryland earlier this month.

Joey twice visited Hillman Library at the University of Pittsburgh to research the topic of his winning entry: “The Advent of the Free Press: How the Peter Zenger Trial Charted a New Course for Media in America.”

“The theme for the competition was a turning point in history,” said Joey, an eighth-grader at Pine-Richland Middle School.

The paper revisits and reflects on the 1734 trial that acquitted John Peter Zenger, publisher of the New York Weekly Journal, of seditious libel.

Zenger faced conviction for printing Popular Party accusations of fraud by William Cosby, then British-appointed governor of the New York and New Jersey colony.

“It was basically the first time that someone said something bad about the governor,” Joey said.

Joey worked with his parents and his social studies teacher — Joseph Bailey of Pine-Richland Middle School — to write about the Peter Zenger trial.

“In Joe's paper, he makes the point that this is kind of a seed for the (American) Revolution — in effect — because people are starting to speak out against the government and publicly publishing these things,” said Joey's father.

Bailey, the social studies teacher, described Joey as “one of the hardest-working students” that he has taught in the school district.

“His work ethic, combined with his immense talent in the area of writing, have gotten his work the recognition that it most assuredly deserves,” Bailey said.

A panel of adult judges read Joey's paper and then interviewed him at the state contest in Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County.

“The best thing I learned was that you have to go and get good sources and do the research before you can write a knowledgeable paper,” Joey said.

Classmate Julia Solomon also competed in National History Day Pennsylvania competition and placed third in the junior individual performance category for her performance of Ludwig von Beethoven's “Symphony No. 9.”

Joey and Julie were among 17 students from the Pine-Richland School District who competed in regional National History Day contests in March at the Sen. John Heinz History Center in the Strip District.

Students who placed first, second or third in a various categories at the regional contest were invited to participate in the state competition.

The following eighth-grade students of Pine-Richland Middle School teachers Eric Brown, Bailey and Sue Bartley earned the listed awards in the regional competition at the history center:

• Megan Henriksen placed first in the junior individual documentary category for “Across the Barbed Wire: A Story of Communism, Courage and Defeat.”

• Sarah Dawson placed second in the junior individual performance category for her performance of “Susan B. Anthony – A Passion for Change.”

• Julia Solomon placed third in the junior individual performance category for her performance of Ludwig von Beethoven's “Symphony No. 9.” Julia also placed third in the state contest.

• Ellis Fritz, Lindsey Hartmann, Rita Lakhssassi, Brienn McWhirter and Isabella Sanzi placed second in the junior group documentary contest for “The Fight for Women's Suffrage: The Movement that Changed America.”

• Joey Mullen placed third in the junior individual historical paper category for “The Advent of the Free Press.” Joey placed first at the state level after revising the paper based on suggestions by judges in the regional competition.

• Noah Adams, Hunter Baxter, Logan DeWitt, Evan Juncal and Richard Kwon placed third in the junior group web site category for “Two Bullets that Changed the Course of History.”

• Olivia Palmieri, Victoria Trott and Melissa Zentz placed third in the junior group documentary category for “How Television Transformed American Entertainment.”

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

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