OC students shine at National History Day Contest

OC student participants at the National History Day Contest.

Orange County students showcased their impressive knowledge of historical events and their impact at the National History Day Contest in early June, winning four medals out of California’s eight total. 

In addition, multiple OC students finished as finalists and one was selected for a special award. All together out of the over 2,600 students from all 50 states, California finished as the winningest state in terms of medal count. 

The week-long contest at the University of Maryland, College Park featured projects in five different categories: papers, websites, documentaries, exhibits and performances.

On the surface, the competition is meant to encourage the study of history so students can navigate the present. However, on a deeper level, the entire process provides participants with multiple real-world skills such as writing, research and collaboration.

Students can choose any topic for their project, so long as it aligns with the competition’s annual theme. This year, the theme of “Turning Points in History” allowed participants to explore any idea, event or action that directly or indirectly led to a historical “turning point.” 

OC student medalists

Poiema Bernier and Lucas Menendez from Acaciawood Preparatory Academy in Anaheim placed first in the Junior Group Documentary category for their work “Rising from the Ashes: The Cuyahoga River, a Turning Point in American Environmental Policy.” In the Senior Individual Documentary category, Harmony Yan-Li out of Irvine High School placed third for her film “Turning Points in History: Frances Kelsey and the Thalidomide Scandal.”

Orange County School of the Arts students Emily Yi and Samantha Bailey receiving their gold medals for their senior group exhibit.

Emily Yi and Samantha Bailey from Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana finished first in the Senior Group Exhibit category for their work titled “Nauseating a Nation: How the Jungle Turned the Stomach of America into Legislation.” 

From Sierra Vista Middle School in the Irvine Unified School District, Audrey Kim placed second for her Junior Individual Performance, titled “MacArthur’s Bold Gambit: How Operation Chromite Became a Pivotal Turning Point in the Korean War and Shaped NATO’s Inception.”

Also from Sierra Vista Middle School, although not awarded a medal, Henry Weichmann’s exhibit called “East L.A. Walkouts: Launching a Movement” was chosen for the Latino American Special Award in the Junior Individual Exhibit category. 

Nearly 100 medalists and special award winners were given cash prizes, while a total of $150,000 in scholarships was additionally awarded.

A full list of the California winners can be found at nhdca.org.