Haviland Elementary School fourth-grade student Grayson Ballard has always loved history. That love and interest led him to enter a “Who was? Who is? and What was?” history contest, based on a series of books published by Penguin. Just last week Ballard was notified that he was a top ten national qualifier in the contest and has won the opportunity to travel to New York this fall to compete for a $10,000 scholarship.


“Grayson has a great depth of knowledge and love of history, and with his helpful nature he is a great resource for his classmates,” said Diann Clodfelter, fourth-grade teacher at Haviland.


Since 2002, students across the nation have read “Who Was? Who is? Where is? and What Was?” books that allow elementary students to dive into history. There are more than 200 titles in the serires. This year, the company created a Who Was? History Bee for schools to put on in their own districts. On December 17, 2019, Haviland Elementary hosted their own competition for third-fifth grade students and Ballard won first place.


“History and geography are my favorite subjects because I like learning about facts,” he said.


After winning local competitions, 25,000 students, including Ballard, took an online test for a chance to compete in the finals. The test for the 9-year-old Haviland student was proctored by his teacher, Mrs. Clodfelter.


Ballard’s top ten score opened up the opportunity for him to travel with his parents Matt and Kami Ballard for the national competition. The competition was originally set for May 4, 2020, but has since been moved to the fall due to the outbreak of COVID-19.


‘We knew he was a smart kid when he was 18 months old, he could do 50-piece puzzles in about 3 minutes,“ Kami Ballard said. ”Then we knew he was incredibly gifted at 3 years old, when he was able to correctly label every country in the world on a map and shortly after could describe and identify every country's flag. He also knew all the presidents of the United States in correct order and lots of details about them.”


The Haviland community surprised Grayson with a celebratory drive-by parade on Friday, April 10. Families drove by with homemade signs and honked and waved to congratulate him on his historic accomplishment.


“Our favorite thing about Grayson is his pure happiness and love of life,” Kami Ballard said.


Grayson said he is excited for this opportunity can’t wait to go to Ellis Island and see the Statue of Liberty in person. He also said he is looking forward to meeting author Jeff Kinney, the host of the final competition. Kinney is best known for his book series, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”


Reporter Hannah Brown contributed to this story.