History Day entries advance to national competition
What do Epicurus, Shostakovich and the U.S. Supreme Court have in common? They are all the topics of the school’s History Day entries that qualified to represent California at the National History Day competition in June.
Eighteen students representing nine entries traveled to Riverside on the weekend of April 28 for the state History Day competition. This year’s theme is “Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History,” and students competed individually or in a group with an exhibit, documentary, historical paper, website or performance event.
“The students represented Saratoga with pride, enthusiasm and excellent entries,” school librarian and History Day coordinator Kevin Heyman said.
The national qualifiers included junior Michelle Won with a website on composer Dmitri Shostakovich, sophomore Anushree Dugar with a paper on the Constitutional Revolution of 1937 and juniors Johnny Chang, Justin Chiang and Kevin Chen with a website on Epicurean philosophy.
“[Qualifying for nationals] was such a rewarding moment for me,” Won said. “I couldn’t stop grinning.”
She added, “I had no idea that I would get this far. I was just doing it because it was kind of interesting and it was a topic that I liked.”
The competition afforded students the opportunity not only to share their research, but also to learn and see projects from other students.
“The environment was competitive, but not daunting or intimidating,” Won said. “Everyone was very supportive and was genuinely interested in the projects.”
For several of the students, the highlight of the weekend was having the opportunity to showcase their projects while spending time with their peers. Prior to departing for Riverside, the group decorating the vans with phrases including “History Day or Bust” and “Honk if you’re a history nerd.” History Day coordinators Matt Torrens and Heyman accompanied the students on the trip, along with some students’ parents.
Although the weekend coincided with junior prom and the juniors on the trip had to miss prom, students had a memorable time at History Day nonetheless.
“I loved that we were able to go as a school group down to Riverside,” Won said. “We shared victories and bittersweet moments, had great late night talks and toured the beautiful city of Riverside.”
Junior Johnny Chang agreed that the experience was rewarding and unforgettable.
“The entire weekend was unreal, and I’m so privileged to get to know such brilliant people on a deeper level,” Chang said.
Though not everyone who did History Day advanced to nationals, students’ entries were highly competitive at the state level. Junior Nikki Bedekar’s paper on the Bessemer Process, a process to make steel out of molten pig iron, made it to the final round of judging and received a special award given to the paper that “best described a complicated process in a clear manner.”
Other students who attended the state competition included juniors Shreya Chaganti, Maya Nag, Rebecca Yang, Sanjna Verma, Christine Xue, Madison King, Nandita Sampath, Kevin Garbe, and seniors Meghana Rao, Antara Rao, Jocelyn Takahashi, Megan Yen and Sanjana Chetia.
The winning students who will journey to the University of Maryland from June 10 to 14 for nationals will continue to improve their entries to be competitive at the national level.
“Next to adding an interview from a Stanford professor [to our website], we’re refining our website and fixing small grammatical errors,” Chang said. “These things really add a sense of completion to our project.”
All in all, students agreed that competing in National History Day was well worth the time and effort.
“History Day sounds kind of embarrassing and nerdy because though it’s basically a congregation of history nerds, it’s actually so much more than that,” Won said. “It was overall a great weekend.”