Students win state honors at History Day competition

posted May 12, 2016, 3:34 PM by Rita Sanders

students win state honors at History Day competition

May 12, 2016

Students from Pleasant Valley and Chief Umtuch middle schools won awards in both group and individual competitions at the Washington State History Day finals held at Green River Community College in Auburn last month. For the competition, students conduct extensive research on historical topics and then choose a format in which to present what they've learned.

A team of eighth graders from Pleasant Valley won the State Archivist's Special Award and first place for their Junior Group Exhibit, "Moral Choices 1975: Vietnam Refugees Encountering Callousness or Compassion; Exchanging Cultures." The project will be presented to the Secretary of State before it is sent to compete at the National History Day contest in June at the University of Maryland in College Park. During their research, Kyra Crosby, Amber Holmgren and Emma McKune accessed hundreds of documents at the state archives in Olympia and interviewed former Gov. Daniel Evans, former Secretary of State Ralph Munro, Vietnam refugees and many other eyewitnesses. Their design showed waves of immigration beginning with the fall of Saigon on April 29, 1975, as well as the refugee crisis as the United States' southeast Asian allies fled the communist takeover of south Vietnam.

Also in the Junior Group Exhibit category, Chief Umtuch eighth graders Sandra Fachiol and Noel Lantz won sixth place for their project, "The Harlem Renaissance." The students conducted research into the history of Harlem, examining the cultural transformation that occurred there in art, music and social rights as New York natives struggled with the integration of migrants into their neighborhoods, labor force, and entire way of life.
A second team of eighth graders from Pleasant Valley won the Special Award for Preservation of Archaeological and Historic Properties in Washington State and fifth place Junior Group Documentary, "Chinook Wawa: The Language of Exploration, Encounter and Exchange." Grace Adams, Jaylee Aho and Erik Hughes researched original documents and interviewed Chinook Chairman Tony Johnson, Vice Chairman Sam Robinson and others to tell the story of how the Chinook saved their language from extinction.

Among the individual entries, Chief Umtuch student Arlilah Abatayo won sixth place for her Junior Individual Documentary, "North Korean Defectors: The March of Suffering." The eighth grader explored the struggles of North Korean citizens who attempted to escape forced isolationist policies of the Communist regime that has controlled that country since the the 1950s.

Pleasant Valley history participants are coached by teacher Irene Soohoo. Chief Umtuch teachers Jon Nesbitt and Beth Doughty lead participants Chief's history participants.Working individually or in groups, students select a topic related to the contest's annual theme and then conduct extensive historical research using primary sources, articles and books. Students distill their research and analysis into a dramatic performance, multimedia documentary, museum exhibit, website or research paper.

Also a participant in the National History Day program, Prairie High School sophomore Ally Orr is researching the life of U.S. Army Private First Class Lester E. Whitesel, Sr. for the Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom Albert H. Small Student & Teacher Institute. Orr is looking for help finding information about Whitesel, Sr. from residents of the Grays Harbor community. She hopes to uncover the story of the soldier and tell it in a eulogy that she'll read in June at the Normandy American Cemetery in Normandy, France. Anyone with information about Private First Class Whitesel, Sr., who served in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne, please contact Orr's history coach, Irene Soohoo, at