Freshman competes at state level in History Day

May 23, 2008 — by Brittany Judoprasetijo
History Day Weekend 062_0

Freshman Jennifer Chiang with her exhibit on Chinese exclusion

It was already December and freshman Jennifer Chiang was six months late. Chiang scrambled for a week to find a topic for this year’s History Day theme: conflict and compromise. Fortunately, her high interest in Asian Studies drew her to the subject of Chinese Exclusion, which in turn led to her topic: Closing the Gate: The Conflict and Compromise behind Chinese Exclusion.

“At first, I was very interested in Asian Studies, so I began skimming books and I came across Chinese Exclusion,” said Chiang. “This immediately blew my mind, and I had to have it as my topic.”

History Day is a national competition where students research topics related to the theme and present their findings through an exhibit, documentary, website, performance or historical paper. History Day is not part of the school curriculum, but Chiang learned about the event through World Geography and U.S. History teacher Matt Torrens.

Chiang participated in the state competition from May 8-11 as the only individual from Saratoga to have advanced to that level. Before the state competition, she felt a mixture of nervousness and excitement, but she also felt proud to represent Saratoga.

“I was excited, since I remember that I couldn’t stop talking on the drive to Sacramento,” said Chiang. “I thought that I was going to state, and that I was going to be completely overwhelmed with the mass/harsh interrogation by the judges and by the other overachieving boards around me. It was my first year, so I expected the worst.”

At the competition, Chiang was surrounded by the professional-looking exhibits of 935 other participants. Despite her pre-competition nervousness, she successfully explained her exhibit and answered all the judges’ questions. The judges in turn commended her for a confident presentation and awarded her a unanimous excellent rating.

Contestants were either ranked in the top three, outstanding, excellent, good and satisfactory. Outstanding contestants had perfect exhibits, while excellent contestants had near-perfect exhibits. Although she did not place in the top three, Chiang gained valuable knowledge throughout the process of preparing for History Day.

“Besides learning about the beginnings of the Chinese in the United States, I also learned things such as how to present more efficiently, how to finish all my other homework really quickly so I could work on History Day, how to construct a 6-foot tall exhibit, and so on and so forth,” said Chiang.
Above all, Chiang cherished the experience.

“What I will remember the most is the experience itself – going through pages and pages of professional papers for research, constructing the board, and presenting it twice in front of many people,” said Chiang.

Chiang felt that the event was an unforgettable experience and encourages more students to participate.

“I would recommend people to do History Day if they are willing to do it for the experience, not for extra credit,” said Chiang. “I didn’t do it for the extra credit; I just did it because I wanted to take a shot at it. History Day is not like Redwood [Middle School’s] History Day. It’s a completely different experience.”

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