Local students triumph at National History Day-California competition

For Maverick Malfavon, months of research, writing and preparation came down to just 10 minutes.

That’s how much time the eighth-grader from Santiago Elementary School in Santa Ana had to deliver a performance on the little known court case of Castañeda v. Pickard during this weekend’s National History Day-California competition in Rocklin.

Student Maverick Malfavon and teacher Erik Peterson

Santiago Elementary student Maverick Malfavon, left, took first place for his individual performance in the junior division at this year’s National History Day-California competition. Supported by his teacher, Erik Peterson, Maverick researched a little known court case that had national implications for English language learners.

Maverick was ready, having thoroughly analyzed the story of Roy C. Castañeda and his eight-year legal battle against the Raymondville Independent School District on behalf of English language learners. The 13-year-old’s stand-out portrayal earned first place in his division, and that means he’ll get to do it again at next month’s National History Day finals in Maryland.

“It’s going to be even more stressful at the national competition because the competitors will be even more fierce with their projects,” he said, “but I know it will be an amazing experience.”

Maverick isn’t the only local student headed to the national showdown. Eight projects from Irvine schools — including five alone from Sierra Vista Middle School — and one from San Clemente High will also make the cross-country trip, accompanied by the students who created them.

Founded in 1974, National History Day challenges students in grades four through 12 to conduct extensive research before creating elaborate historical projects, including original websites, papers, documentaries, performances and exhibits.

Participants work individually or in teams and submit their work for judging at district, county, state and national competitions. About 600,000 young historians take part each year, creating projects based on an annual theme. This year’s theme was “Triumph and Tragedy in History.”

OCDE hosted the National History Day-Orange County competition in March, drawing nearly 500 students from 34 schools and a dozen districts. The top submissions then advanced to the state finals, which were held May 10-12 at William Jessup University.

Now 21 OC students are headed to the national contest June 9-13, including Maverick. And he’s eager to continue sharing the legacy of Roy C. Castañeda, who helped install a three-pronged test to evaluate whether schools are appropriately meeting the needs of English learners.

“This is one of the most important cases on language equity,” he told the OCDE Newsroom. “It’s very little known, which made my research harder. But people should know about this because it has had a national impact.”

Below is a rundown of the projects that will represent Orange County at the culminating event — and the students who made them. For a comprehensive list of state winners, visit the National History Day-California website.

Orange County Junior Champions (Grades 6-8)

Individual Documentary
“The Ban of DDT: Triumph for Environment, Tragedy for Humans”
Aditya Hari
Sierra Vista Middle School, Irvine Unified School District

Group Documentary
“The Legacy of the Tragic Wonder Drug: Thalidomide”
Caleb Empig, Jonathan Kang, Justin Lee and Anthony Foo
Sierra Vista Middle School, Irvine Unified School District

Group Exhibit
“Panama Canal: Dividing a Land to Unite a World, Triumphs and Tragedies”
Harrison Cho and Joshua Ikehara
Sierra Vista Middle School, Irvine Unified School District

Historical Paper
“The Effect of Brown v. Board of Education on African-American Teachers”
Natalie Miller
Lakeside Middle School, Irvine Unified School District

Individual Performance
“The Triumph of Castañeda v. Pickard and the Tragedies that English Language Learners Still Face Today”
Maverick Malfavon
Santiago Elementary School, Santa Ana Unified School District

Group Performance
“The Triumph and Tragedy of the Transcontinental Railroad”
Cindy Ding, Olivia Cai, Sunny Wang, Rachel Huh and Rachel How
Sierra Vista Middle School, Irvine Unified School District

Group Website
“Czechoslovakia, 1938: Triumph and Tragedy in a Final Stride for Peace”
Ramon Jiang, Ethan Chen and Zhongwen Zhang
Sierra Vista Middle School, Irvine Unified School District

Orange County Seniors Champions (Grades 9-12)

Individual Exhibit
“Yellowstone: The Tragedy of Native Americans and Triumph of Environmental Conservation”
Emily Zhang
University High School, Irvine Unified School District

Individual Website
“Atoms for Peace: Triumph of Scientific Diplomacy”
James Koga
University High School, Irvine Unified School District

Group Website
“Brown v. Board of Education: A National Triumph and Neglected Tragedy”
Sophia Burick and Kate McKernan
San Clemente High School, Capistrano Unified School District

Special Awards Winners

Catalina Pacheco Memorial Award
Cindy Ding, Olivia Cai, Sunny Wang, Rachel Huh and Rachel How
Sierra Vista Middle School, Irvine Unified School District

Naval Maritime History Award
Christy Han
Sierra Vista Middle School, Irvine Unified School District

Turning Points in History Award
Sol Choi
University High School, Irvine Unified School District

William E. Geary Memorial Award for Military History
Christy Han
Sierra Vista Middle School, Irvine Unified School District