Gracie Conrad’s documentary beat out hundreds of entries to win the International Discovery Award.
Thursday, September 15, 2022, 7:03 p.m. CDT
TAYLOR, NE — Sometimes great success can come from unsung places.
Taylor, Nebraska – with less than 200 residents – is one such place…making it a perfect place to study unsung heroes. That’s exactly what Wolf County High School student Gracie Conrad did.
“I felt like I really hadn’t been seen before,” Conrad said. “I would give speeches and stuff like that, and people would be like, ‘oh good job.’ But it was never like, ‘oh Gracie from population 190 Taylor did this.’
That moment came on Monday for Conrad. His documentary beat out hundreds of entries to win the International Discovery Award competition through the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes. She was surprised with the award at a ceremony in Fort Scott, Kansas.
“Obviously I was playing. Tears of joy, I’ve never had so many tears of joy,” Conrad said.
The documentary was part of a project commissioned by English teacher Megan Helberg.
“It makes them start thinking that unsung heroes could be everywhere,” Helberg said. “The unsung heroes are in your own community. You start wanting to get to know people better and you start listening to their story.
Conrad decided on his subject in January. She chose Betty Goudsmit-Oudkerk, who helped bring over 600 children to safety in the Netherlands during the Holocaust.
“She was brave when few people were. She stood out when everyone in the world was trying to look exactly the same,” Conrad said in his documentary.
“Betty was terrified of everything she did. She was afraid of being caught, afraid of being murdered, afraid of being deported — something like that. She still held on,” Conrad said. “She was brave and she was strong.”
Conrad interviewed Goudsmit-Oudkerk’s daughter, Judith, and collected previously unseen photographs. She spent months perfecting the project.
“My goal as a teacher in small, rural Nebraska is – I want to provide these opportunities for my students and it’s up to the students to grab them and run with them. Gracie did just that,” Helberg said.
Conrad received $6,000 in prize money, but for her, the honor is about spreading her subject’s story and representing her community.
“Through my hard work and Betty’s amazing story, it got me to where people actually know who I am now,” Conrad said. “It’s kind of crazy to think how hard work can get you to a place.”
Conrad says she’ll put the prize money towards college and a breeding heifer.