31 students proceed to state in History Day competition

March 27, 2013 — by Michelle Leung

A total of 31 students will go to the History Day state competition in Sacramento from April 28-29. Sixteen entries will be evaluated in the individual and group categories for websites, papers, performances, exhibits or documentaries.

A total of 31 students will go to the History Day state competition in Sacramento from April 28-29. Sixteen entries will be evaluated in the individual and group categories for websites, papers, performances, exhibits or documentaries.

The theme for 2013 is “Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, and Events.”

Students who qualified for state include freshmen Aditya Choudhary, Nina Nelson and Ashvita Ramesh; sophomores Jasmine Deng, Minda Lee, Michelle Leung and Vivian Roan; juniors Andrew Chang, Jane Chang, Jennifer Chen, Stephen Cho, Anushree Dugar, Robert Eng, Sarah Finley, Marcin Kranz, Jason Li, Gloria Liou, Amy Han, Janey Heyman, Mihir Iyer, Vivian Li, Elise Mun, Nikil Ramanathan, Alex Renda, Mohith Subbarao, Maggie Sun, Amelia Troyer and Sachi Verma and seniors Kian Anderson, Fred Feyzi and Michal Kranz.

History Day begins at the school level; entries then advance to county, state and finally, nationals. The competition is held annually, and students prepare as much as eight months in advance to participate. Although about half as many SHS students as in 2012 participated this year, the number of state qualifiers almost doubled, from 16 to 31.

Librarian and History Day coordinator Kevin Heyman suggests that fewer students participated at the school level this year because of possible changes in History Day extra credit policy in history classes. Another reason for the high number of Saratoga students going to state was a decrease in the number of participants from other local schools.

Despite the effort and dedication involved, students participate for a variety of reasons. Many history teachers continue to offer extra credit for participating in History Day. Although extra credit is at least a partial motive of most participants, Dugar, who has qualified for nationals every year since she first started competing in eighth grade, is genuinely interested in history.

“I really like writing historical papers,” said Dugar, who this year wrote about the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969. “It gives me an opportunity to express my own ideas about topics that I can't express in high school classes. In college, you have to write a lot of research papers, so it’s a good experience to be able to write research papers.”

Eng, who made a website about the Battle of Midway, competed in History Day for the potential awards.

“When my brother participated in History Day, he constructed a website and won an award with attached monetary value,” Eng said. “From his positive experience, I was inspired to also produce a website.”

For most students, the most rewarding part of the experience was the research.

“The most fun but difficult part was finding sources,” Dugar said. “I spent three days in Santa Barbara, visiting the archives there and searching through primary sources. It was hard to find relevant sources, but definitely the most fun [part].”

Verma created an exhibit about the Nixon-Kennedy debate. The debate was the first time television was used for politics.

“This year’s theme was ‘Turning Point in History,’” Verma said. “Normally people focus on wars, but I wanted to do something different.”

Since she qualified for the state competition, Verma has improved on her project.

“I put in these LED lighting to light up words,” Verma said. “There is a huge picture of Nixon looking at a huge picture of Kennedy to show appearance. I made a television, which is really an iPad with antenna on top. I also made a model of the debate, with Kennedy and Nixon.”

History Day involves incredible time and effort from students who participate, as well as the staff who coordinates the event.

"[History teacher Matt] Torrens and [librarian Kevin] Heyman both put in a lot of effort in helping us prepare for History Day,” sophomore Minda Lee said. “They did a lot of extra work that inspired us to work harder, like driving to Castilleja High School in Palo Alto, and giving us helpful feedback on our website."

Torrens works to make History Day happen because it gives students opportunities to explore interests.

“History Day gets students away from studying and into learning,” Torrens said.

Coordinators said that the effort students put in, particularly for an extracurricular competition, made the work worthwhile.

“History Day is worth the effort because it’s an opportunity for students to study very deeply about one topic,” Heyman said.

Students and coordinators involved in History Day believe that every minute of it is worthwhile.

“I am most proud of the quality of the projects that kids attempted,” Torrens said. “There were really unique, challenging thesis statements. They put a lot of work into the projects.”

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