Irvine middle schooler takes third at National History Day finale

A local student has won third place in the 2020 National History Day competition, which live-streamed this year’s awards ceremony from Washington, D.C.

Natalie Miller of Lakeside Middle School in the Irvine Unified School District took the honor in the Junior Paper category for her submission, “Ex Parte Mitsuye Endo: Breaking through Barbed Wire.”

National History Day logo

The project documented the U.S. Supreme Court’s Ex Parte Mitsuye Endo decision, which in 1944 ruled that the federal government could not detain citizens who were considered loyal to the United States, as it did with Japanese Americans during World War II.

Breaking Barriers in History

This year, more than half a million middle and high school students participated in National History Day contests at the district, county and state levels, beginning their research in late 2019. Working individually or in teams, they produced original documentaries, exhibits, papers, performances and websites, each reflecting the theme “Breaking Barriers in History.”

Like OCDE’s county-level event, the NHD National Contest shifted to a digital format in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and about 3,000 young historians advanced this year. The final showdown featured 11 projects created by students from Irvine Unified, as well as an exhibit created by two Capistrano Unified middle schoolers.

In addition to Lakeside’s medalist, three Irvine students and their projects were honored as finalists.

“To make it to the National Contest in a normal year is a remarkable achievement,” NHD Executive Director Dr. Cathy Gorn said. “Given the unprecedented challenges that faced students over the last several months, I am even more impressed by what they achieved this year. They have shown an incredible level of fortitude and tenacity, and I am confident we will continue to see great things from them.”

Hundreds of professional historians and educators participated in the national round of judging, which was also conducted remotely. More than 100 students earned honors and qualified for cash prizes.

The full list of 2020 winners can be found at, but here’s a look at Orange County’s top performers:

National Medalist

Third place, Junior Individual Paper
“Ex Parte Mitsuye Endo: Breaking through Barbed Wire”
Student: Natalie Miller
Teacher: Michael Clark
Lakeside Middle School, Irvine Unified School District

National Finalists

Ninth place, Senior Historical Paper
“A Penny for Your Thoughts: How the New York Penny Press Redefined American Journalism”
Student: Jihyun Won
Teacher: Wind Ralston
Portola High School, Irvine Unified School District

Eighth place, Junior Individual Performance
“Ruby Bridges: Breaking the Segregational Barrier”
Student: Louise Macatula
Teacher: Lianne Linck
Sierra Vista Middle School, Irvine Unified School District

Fourth place, Junior Individual Exhibit
“Women Breaking Barriers at Langley”
Student: Riya Gupta
Teacher: Lianne Linck
Sierra Vista Middle School, Irvine Unified School District