The history behind History Day: an opportunity for students to express their passions

May 26, 2017 — by Ava Hooman and Esha Lakhotia

Then a freshman in May 2015, junior Alvin Chung and his teammates anxiously waited for the judges to evaluate the product of their hours of hard work in the annual History Day competition.

Their category, Senior Group Performance, was being called last; the tension was building every minute. Members of the other teams that were already called celebrated with hugs, and a parent could be heard crying out of joy for their child.

The team’s hopes fell as the announcement ended and they realized that they would not be going on to nationals.

Nearly half a million of students nationwide compete in History Day, and only the best of the best make it to the nationals.

History Day is a year-long educational competition that encourages students to explore local, state, national and world history beyond the classroom setting. After selecting a topic of their choice, students spend hours starting in January researching with help from mentors and teachers. Their hard work is then transformed into a presentation, paper, exhibit, performance, documentary or a website.

“The participation really depends on the topic and if teachers offer extra credit,” said librarian Kevin Heyman, a mentor and helpful guide to many of the participants. This year, Chung, along with his fellow teammates from last year, juniors Shania Jafri, Evelyn Hoa and Hannah Yoon, made a performance about Shays’ Rebellion, a topic covered in the first semester of AP United States History.

According to Jafri, the format usually starts with a primary source document, which acts as a hook and introduces the time frame of the topic.

The group has made three projects since their start in freshman year, and they plan on making another in senior year. The projects offer a chance to meet people with similar interests and passions.

Their project made it to the state level, but didn't make the national level this year after the competition in early May.

“In my freshman year, we were one round away from nationals, and in sophomore year, we were two rounds away, so we really hope to make it to nationals either this May, or next May in my senior year,” Chung said.

Chung said that not only does he learn more about the history behind past events, but that he and his team enjoy the process of creating original content with friends.

“History Day provides me with the resources and competition to gain more knowledge about topics we cover in class, while still having fun with my friends,” Chung said.

Jafri also said that though the project started as trying to get an A in her freshman history class, it turned into a journey that she and her friends have gotten closer through.

“It was amazing because we had unforgettable memories such as staying up late performing our lines in my garage, getting distracted by musical parodies and having inside jokes that we always laugh at,” said Jafri.

 

 

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