Greene County students win first place at the National History Day Contest
Caroline Bruton and Kayla Shaller, eighth-graders from William Monroe Middle School in Greene County, placed first in the Junior Group Documentary category of the National History Day contest with their film, “Communicating Through Cell Walls: The Secret Correspondence of American POWs in Vietnam.”
Bruton and Shaller investigated the importance of secret communication methods of American POWs during the Vietnam War and how they created a support network that kept their morale up and helped them survive their ordeal.
These successful tactics are still taught to American servicemen today.
Between May 25th and June 16th, 49 Virginia students, ranging from grades 6-12 and representing every region of the Commonwealth, competed against over 3,000 students from across the country. A virtual award ceremony was streamed on Saturday, June 19th to announce winners of 18 contest categories and dozens of special awards.
Virginia History Day is the state affiliate of the National History Day program. Similar to a science fair, but for history, the National History Day Contest was founded in 1974 to inspire students to conduct original historical research. Since its creation, the contest has grown into an international competition with more than half-a-million participants and thousands of dollars in scholarship awards and prizes annually.
“Creating a project for the National History Day Contest is challenging. It requires hard work and dedication. But, it also provides great reward,” said Dr. Cathy Gorn, National History Day® executive director. “The skills of conducting research and recognizing credible sources are crucial to increasing civic engagement in young people.”
Virginia’s student delegation did exceptionally well at this year’s National Contest.
- William Monroe Middle School sixth-grader Mukund Marri placed eighth with his documentary, “Navajo Code: The Unbreakable Code,” which told the story of Navajo code talkers during World War II.
- Mary J. Porter Traditional School (Prince William County) seventh-grader Julienne Lim placed ninth in the Junior Individual Website category with her project, “Devil Dog Canines: A Line of Communication in World War II.” Lim focused on the important role messenger dogs played in sending battlefield communications in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. Additionally, Lim received the United State Marine Corps History Award. Sponsored by the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, this prize is awarded to an outstanding entry that demonstrates an appreciation of Marine Corps history.
- Two Virginia projects placed 4th in their categories. Carly Phung, an 11th-grader from John Randolph Tucker High School in Henrico, received fourth place for her exhibit, “Say Cheese!: How Lewis Hine Used Cameras to Shine a Light Upon Life’s Dark Corners.” Phung explored the impact of groundbreaking reformer and photographer Lewis Hine in the early 1900s. Placing fourth in the Senior Group Website category were Sahil and Sagar Gupta, 11th-graders from Thomas Jefferson High for Science and Technology in Fairfax, with their project, “The Story of Walter Gadsden: How One Miscommunication Changed the Course of the Civil Rights Movement.” Sahil and Sagar described the impact a 1963 photo of police brutality had on public perception of the Civil Rights Movement.
- Two projects received Virginia’s Outstanding Affiliate Entry Award. In the Senior Division, Georgia and Caroline Berg, 11th-graders from Grafton High School in York County, received the distinction for their documentary, “The Secret Language of Flowers.” Their project revealed how Victorian era people overcame the social rules that controlled their lives and expressed their true emotions using language surrounding flowers. In the Junior Division, Samhita Som, a sixth-grader from Haycock Elementary School in Fairfax, received recognition for her paper, “Watergate: The Impact of Communication in Investigative Journalism and Reporting.” Som’s paper demonstrated the importance of the Watergate scandal to the world of journalism and the development of new journalistic techniques that are still relied upon by journalists today.
In addition to the success of Virginia’s students, several Virginia teachers received recognition for their hard work.
- William Monroe Middle School teacher Stephanie Hammer received the Naval Historical Society’s Teacher of Distinction Award. This award is given to teachers of those students who place first, second or third nationally in their respective categories for projects with a naval or maritime theme. Hammer has participated in NHD for more than 10 years and her students always do exceptionally well at all levels of NHD competitions.
- Julie Noble of Richmond’s New Community School and Jennifer Goss of Staunton High School were Virginia’s nominees for the Patricia H. Behring Teacher of the Year Award. Both received $500 honorariums for their outstanding contributions to history education and success using NHD in the classroom.