History Day winners headed to nationals in Washington, D.C.

Karely Garcia performs her award-winning National History Day performance at Wheatland Middle School


WHEATLAND – Last week the National History Day (NHD) qualifiers presented a showcase of their projects for the community and their parents. Ten students from the Wheatland Middle and High School are getting ready to compete at the National History Day competition held June 9-13 at the University of Maryland.
More than half a million middle and high school students participate in NHD annually. Students come from every state in the U.S., Washington, D.C., Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and international schools in China, Korea, and South Asia. Winners receive cash prizes, scholarships, recognition and valuable skills to aid them in future educational endeavors.
This year’s theme was “Triumph & Tragedy in History.” Participants can choose from one of the following categories: documentary, exhibit, paper, website or performance. They also decide whether to compete as individuals or a group. Taking part in the competition develops historical research skills as well as presentation and documentation of their findings.
Middle school teacher Mary Jo Birt has been leading the program here in Wheatland for several years. She offers a class and her wealth of experience and knowledge to propel her students towards success. The first level of NHD was hosted by Wheatland. Qualifiers from that event continued on to the state competition held at the University of Wyoming in April and State winners are invited to attend nationals. This year at state, WMS won the most awards.
The only WHS students attending nationals are sophomores Bailey Fitzwater and Ian Engling. They worked together on NHD projects in middle school and wished to continue competing as they got older, this is their fourth year and they received first place in the Group Exhibit division. They were inspired by what WHS teacher Brian Boaz said during a lecture in class, “the Technological Triumph and Social Tragedy of Television.”
“It was a real eye opener of how TV has affected national events,” explained Fitzwater. “If 9/11 had not been televised, people wouldn’t have known so much about it and it would not have become a time of national togetherness and bonding for our country.”
In regards to the “social tragedy” part of their project, their display featured statistics of how much family social interaction decreased with the invention of the television and how that trend hasn’t reversed and isn’t likely to.
Camryn Mickelsen and Hunter Sisson decided to create a website design about the 1963 Birmingham Children’s March. The girls won first place in the Junior Group Website division. They were inspired by the historical event because it showed how kids like them could do something important. The most difficult thing for them was documenting all of their resources and they learned that they should have kept track while they were putting the project together rather than waiting until the last minute.
Eleni Mckee and Traylea Foland won first place in Junior Group Documentary. It was entitled, “Stand Firm for the Women, Wyoming’s Triumph in the Nation’s Tragedy.” It dealt with the history of women’s suffrage in our country and highlighted Wyoming women engaged in the effort.
Second place in Junior Individual Performance went to Karely Garcia for her dramatic performance as Irena Sendler. Sendler was a Polish woman who rescued thousands of Jewish children during World War II and Garcia spoke about her struggles and triumphs. During her moving performance last week, there were several audience members who needed tissues.
A trio won first place for the Junior Group Performance division: Hadley Paisley, Jayden and Jacey McDaniel. They each portrayed a different First Lady from History, Mary Todd Lincoln (Jayden), Eleanor Roosevelt (Hadley) and Jacqueline Kennedy (Jacey). They spoke of their accomplishments and how they impacted history. Saying in unison, “Not in his shadow, but by his side.”
The kids are raising funds to pay for their trip to nationals. There is an Arbys Fundraising night, Wednesday, May 15, from 4-8 pm. They are also available for odd jobs and work for donations. Anyone interested in “hiring” them, should contact Mary Jo Birt at (307) 322-1518.


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