History Repeats Itself: Dello Russo Family Sends Another Student to the National History Fair

-By Seth Daniel

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Michael Dello Russo (front) proudly displays his winning certificate at the State History Fair in Worcester this month. John Dello Russo (back, left) was the first student to advance to the nationals in more than 20 years. Their other brother, Joe, nearly advanced to the nationals this year as well, missing out by only one place. It seems the family has the market cornered.

They say lighting doesn’t strike twice in the same place, and they’re probably right.

However, extraordinary success has struck twice in the Dello Russo family this year, as another one of the three Dello Russo boys has qualified for the national History Fair.

And, it was very nearly a triple strike.

Last year, John Dello Russo shocked the Rumney Marsh Academy (RMA) when he qualified for the National History Fair, winning the individual documentary junior division at the state contest in Worcester.

It was the first time in 20 years anyone from Revere had qualified in any division, and most everyone believed that it might not happen again for a long time.

The last thing anyone believed was that John’s younger brother Michael, a sixth-grader at RMA, would punch the same ticket to Washington, D.C. the very next year.

And on top of that, no one would have believed that the middle brother, Joe, would also nearly make it – missing a trip to D.C. this year by only one place.

Michael took second place in the state fair in Worcester a few weeks back for his exhibition on the Trail of Tears – the forced moving of Cherokee Indians in the 1800s.

“I thought it was very interesting because this was the first and only time a president has defied the Supreme Court,” said Michael. “I was surprised because I didn’t think you could defy the Supreme Court…I thought I had a good chance of winning the first couple of competitions. I felt that if I placed at the states then it was icing on the cake. My heart was pounding out of my chest when I did win and my teacher was really excited. There was a lot of cheering going on.”

The excitement, however, was not just about winning the contest. For Michael, the excitement was about getting a new dog.

As a bet with his mother, Patty, he was promised a new dog if he went to nationals in the History Fair. The odds were pretty long at the time of the bet, but it was something his mother said she ended up paying.

“I took the bet because, of course, I knew that John was the first to go to the nationals from Revere in 20 years,” said Patty. “With Michael being in the sixth grade, I knew the competition at the state’s was pretty tough. So, I said that I would take the bet. When he won, I was excited for him, but then I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re getting a dog.’”

Added the boys’ father, John Sr., “Every step of the way Michael kept saying that he was one step closer to a dog. Even when he won he was saying something about getting the dog. We never thought he’d win that bet.”

But win he did, and now the family is – for the second straight year – making plans to head to Washington D.C. on June 12 for the national history fair – which will take place on the campus of the University of Maryland.

The three brothers have quickly distinguished themselves at the RMA over the last few years, placing high not only in the history fairs, but also in the science fairs.

Their father and mother both said that they foster and nurture any academic interest that the boys pursue. It comes naturally to the family as John Sr. is a lab manager at Mass General and has a degree in marine biology – not to mention a real passion for history.

Most times, the house could have numerous science experiments going at the same time as construction projects are underway for history presentations.

Patty said that all three boys can sometimes be working on more than one project at a time.

“There are times when we have science projects bumping up against boards for the History Fair,” said Patty. “This year we had one of them growing plants in the corner of the dining room and the other one was raising crawfish in the basement and Michael was constructing his history project on the dining room table. At one point every year the Science Fair and History Fair bump up against each other and it gets pretty intense around here.”

However, it’s something that both John Sr. and Patty said they never discourage – no matter what kind of mess is  made.

“If they’re excited about learning something, we’re excited too,” said Patty. “We really try to make it a family activity. When Michael became interested in the Trail of Tears after watching a PBS special, we bought it for him immediately. We feel there’s a lot of opportunities in Revere for education and if you support your kids they can benefit from it tremendously.”

Michael said that attitude has stuck with him and it motivates him to do his very best, rather than just put something together to get a grade.

“It’s really good to see what you can do when you put your full potential into something,” he said.

The Dello Russos are both graduates of Revere High School and live on Cushman Avenue. Grandparents are Yvonne Dello Russo of Beachmont and Cornelius Matthews of Cushman Avenue.

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