Project EXCEL student-faculty duo headed to Hawaii to explore military history

Project EXCEL student-faculty duo headed to Hawaii to explore military history

Vincennes University Logo

March 30, 2022

March 30, 2022

BROWNSBURG, Ind. – Vincennes University dual credit student Olivia Freeman is exploring history in a way she never dreamed, and waiting on the other end for her is a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Hawaii.

The Brownsburg, Indiana High School junior is one-half of a teacher-student team chosen to participate in the Sacrifice for Freedom: World War II in the Pacific Student and Teacher Institute. The teacher half is VU adjunct faculty member and Brownsburg High School Social Studies teacher Dawn Crone. The program is through National History Day.

"There are certain topics about history that I really find myself getting into," Freeman said. "I have always found World War II interesting. I think it is a really cool opportunity not only to travel but to expand my horizons."

The institute is an impressive opportunity for the pair to study World War II in Honolulu, Hawaii. This spring, they’re conducting research and taking part in Hawaii-based learning activities that are expanding their knowledge and perspective of history.

Freeman is enrolled in VU’s Project EXCEL, which is Indiana's first dual credit/concurrent enrollment program and it allows students to get a jump start on their college careers. Project EXCEL courses are of the same quality and rigor as those taught on the VU campus.

"This another great example of how Project EXCEL through the dual credit program provides opportunities for students to be in a college-level setting in a classroom that opens up other opportunities as well,” Crone said.

The Pearl Harbor Historic Site Partners provide travel and program expenses for all participants in the Sacrifice for Freedom: World War II in the Pacific Student and Teacher Institute.

Students and teachers were invited to apply for the institute. Sixteen teams were selected from a pool representing teachers and students throughout the United States and U.S. territories.

Like the other teams, Freeman and Crone are currently reading historical texts, studying documents, participating in online discussions, and researching the life of a fallen military member from their region who is buried or memorialized at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

"For Olivia, it is definitely a different way of looking at history," Crone said. "It is a more hands-on applied history vs. the traditional history experience that we have in the classroom. It provides an opportunity to do real research on real people."

In July, Freeman and Crone will travel to Hawaii for an unforgettable and engaging experience at locations instrumental in the Pacific during World War II. They will interact with historians at the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites and across the island of Oahu. Teacher-student teams will experience firsthand what it is like to live on a ship by spending one night aboard the USS Missouri.

An incredibly special moment will occur at a military cemetery when Freeman reads a eulogy and shares the story of her Silent Hero, Vernon Kirk. She put a great deal of thought into whom she wanted to profile when she selected Kirk as her Silent Hero.

"Being an African American, I wanted to choose an African American serviceman to shine a light on. I wanted to shine a light on someone who may not have been respected at the time because of the time period and segregation laws," Freeman said of Kirk.

Freeman has already learned a great deal about Kirk, and her research is ongoing. The profile on Kirk and other Silent Heroes will be published online during the 2022-23 academic year at

"I hope people learn about Vernon Kirk and his story, and they recognize him for his service and his duty to his country," she said. 

Freeman acknowledges the magnitude of the program and the experiences related to it. 

"This has helped me teach myself responsibility as I prepare for college and it’s helped me open myself to new avenues that I may have not known I could have been interested in before like research and history about certain events," she said. "I’m excited to discover more interests about myself and to learn more about World War II in general."

Explore VU’s Project EXCEL dual credit program.