National History Day

Huntington Celebrates National History Day

Teachers Ken Donovan and Camille Tedescho with Group Exhibit category champions.

February 6, 2017

History came to life as hundreds of students submitted projects for this year’s local National History Day competition at Huntington High School last Thursday night.

The teenagers spent months researching and developing their entries and took delight in the attention that was showered upon them during last week’s awards ceremony.

Participants vied in categories ranging from research papers to individual and group websites, exhibits and documentaries. This year’s theme was “Taking a Stand in History.”

Teams of teachers served as judges for each category and spent hours evaluating the projects, which were displayed in the auditorium lobby prior to the announcement of this year’s award winners.

“This year’s event featured the presentation of some of the finest research efforts I can recall seeing, which says quite a bit considering the quality of projects that come from Huntington every year,” Superintendent James W. Polansky said. “Robert Jean-Gilles’ individual performance, the documentaries produced by Alyssa Befumo and John and Katie Riley and the multitude of outstanding exhibits on display in the lobby are just some of the projects that reaffirmed Huntington’s commitment to the National History Day initiative. It is clear that our students take great pride in their work. Congratulations to all student participants from both Finley and Huntington High School, as well as to teachers Lauren Desiderio, Camille Tedeschi, Kenneth Donovan, Jarrad Richter and department chair Joseph Leavy and all the others who continue to inspire!”

The top place finishers will advance to the Long Island regional finals at Hofstra University on Sunday, March 19. In the ensuing weeks, students will be able incorporate suggestions made by local judges to improve their projects.

The state championship is set for Monday, April 24 in Cooperstown. The national finals will be held June 11-15 at the University of Maryland at College Park.

The annual history initiative seeks to make history more relevant for students and requires them to use a variety of practical and creative skills during the development of their projects.

The local National History Day competition is coordinated by Huntington High School’s History Day club. Club officers include Margaret Giles (president), Gaia D’Anna (vice president), Isabella Piccola (recording secretary), Nicole Arenth (corresponding secretary), Alyssa Befumo (treasurer), Isabella McGinniss (historian) and administrative assistants Erica Vazquez and Max Robins.

A large crowd of more than 300 viewed projects on display in the school lobby before moving into the auditorium for several presentations and performances and the announcement of this year’s award winners. Mr. Polansky was joined at the event by high school Principal Brenden Cusack and Assistant Principals Joseph DiTroia and Gamal Smith.

Sophomore Maya DelGiudice captured the Principal’s Award for her historical paper on President Harry Truman. “Maya did a wonderful job of outlining the impact of Harry Truman’s presidency,” Mr. Cusack told the crowd during the awards ceremony. “It is clear that she put a lot of effort into this project, which was truly deserving of recognition. I am very proud of all the students who participated.  Kids took the National History Day theme of ‘taking a stand’ and they ran with it. The display of effort and inquiry this year was very impressive.”

Sophomore Katie Riley and her brother, junior John Riley teamed up to take first place in the group documentary category for their project on Daniel Ellsberg, a military analyst who leaked to The New York Times a study of decision-making by US officials on the Vietnam War. Known as the Pentagon Papers, the information painted a bleak picture of America’s role in Southeast Asia.

“Katie and I are excited to once again represent Huntington High School at the Long Island History Day competition,” Mr. Riley said. “Working together to create a documentary was challenging. We were required to select a topic relevant to both our AP World History and AP United States History class curriculums. The Vietnam War is a subject covered in both classes and Dr. Daniel Ellsberg’s decision to release the Pentagon Papers satisfied this year’s NHD theme of ‘Taking a Stand.’ Ellsberg’s release of the papers revealed over 25 years of lies and cover-ups by four presidents about the US involvement in Vietnam. It ultimately changed the relationship between the US government and the American people. This will be my third and last year competing at Hofstra. I’m hopeful that we will do well.”

Mrs. Desiderio continues to put her heart and soul into the history initiative. She’s optimistic about the chances of many Huntington students in the regional competition and beyond.

“History Day is a great way for students to get involved with history,” said Ms. Tedeschi, who worked with many of the teenagers who entered projects. “For the students that really get into it, they learn skills that are used in all subject areas and help prepare them for college. Research and writing are essential components in the Advanced Placement/honors program at Huntington High School and National History Day helps to build and enhance those skills each time the students compete in the competition. I love how our department collaborates on this and gets excited for all of the students’ work, not just the students in your own your classes. I enjoyed all of the projects and was so proud of everyone. The students really worked hard and it showed. I really enjoy the projects on topics I am unfamiliar with and can learn new things from.”

2017 National History Day Award Winners

Senior Division

Individual Performance:

  • 1st: George Orwell: Robert Jean-Gilles

Group Performance:

  • 1st: Fuller and Friedan: 2 Women, 1 Goal, 100 Years: Jennifer Low and Abby Semelsberger

Individual Documentary:

  • 3rd: Bob Dylan: Chris Bavaro
  • 2nd: Taking a Stand Against Saddam Hussein: Kyle Perea
  • 1st: The Stonewall Riots: Alyssa Befumo

Group Documentary:

  • 3rd: The Ghost Army:“Pretending” to Take a Stand: Matthew Genneralli, Paul Katigbak, Andrew Knowles and Julien Rentsch
  • 2nd: Thomas Nast: Chris Chang, Adina Kirkland, Samantha Sgrizzi and Lauren White
  • 1st: Daniel Ellsberg: John Riley and Katie Riley

Individual Exhibit:

  • 3rd: James Brown: Get on up, Get into it, Get Involved: Diya Rai-Gersappe
  • 2nd: Jesse Owens: Mackenzie Joseph
  • 1st: A Stand for Democracy: The Berlin Airlift: Jason Verville

Group Exhibit:

    3rd: Theodore Roosevelt: America’s Greatest Conservationist: Beanna Cumella and Peyton Kalb
  • 2nd: Making Sense of Reason: Disseminating Thomas Paine’s Ideas in a Revolutionary Time: Abigail Holmes, Madelyn Kye and Gabriel Medina-Jaudes
  • 1st: Furman v. Georgia: Megan Erhardt, Isabella McGinniss, Christina Varady and Erika Varady

Historical Paper:

  • 3rd: Taking a Stand Against the Save Our Children Campaign and the Briggs Initiative: Rachel Moss
  • 2nd: Olympe de Gouges: Katherine DeGennaro
  • 1st: Larry Flynt: Aidan Forbes

Individual Website:

  • 3rd: Sophie Scholl: Natalie Ciccone
  • 2nd: Cesar Chavez: Yes We Can: Matthew Wildermuth
  • 1st: Counter-Culture of the 1960s: Progress Through Protest: Max Robins

Group Website:

  • 3rd: Garbo: The Double Agent Who Fooled the Nazis: William Burton, Ryan Knowles and Bryce Vitulli
  • 2nd: Samuel Hopkins Adams: The Stand Against Patented Medicines: Niamh Condon, Alex Heuwetter, Isabella Piccola and Lindsay Saginaw
  • 1st: The War on Drugs: Nicole Arenth, Kenneth Fajardo and Jamie Rosenbauer

Junior Division

Group Documentary:

  • Harry Chapin: Taking a Stand Against World Hunger: Nick Tudisco, Liam Hassett and Sofia Mercuri

Group Exhibit:

  • Martin Luther King, Jr.: Taking a Stand Against Segregation: Taylor Case, Riley Zink and Gracie Gray

Individual Websites:

  • Ric O’Barry: Taking a Stand Against the Taiji Dolphin Slaughter: Luca D’Anna
  • Taking a Stand Against Soviet Aggression: JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis: Miles Tierney

Special Awards

American Labor History Award:

  • Individual Website: Pullman Strike of 1894: Taking a Stand for the Workers created by Kyra DeSalvo

Asian-American History Award:

  • Individual Website: The Chinese Exclusion Act created by Raymond Sanders

Global Peace Award:

  • Group Documentary: John Lennon: Bed-ins for Peace created by Gaia D’Anna, Maggie Giles, Erica Vazquez and Julia Rogan

Latino-American History Award:

  • Individual Documentary: Crossing the Andes: Bernard O’Higgins created by Dominick Stanley

Military History Award:

  • Individual Website: The Battle of Ia Drang created by Matthew Quinn

Genocide, Bias and Tolerance Award:

  • Group Documentary: Armin Wegner: The Armenian Genocide created by Lena Annunziata, Megan Agrillo and Caroline Hartough

African-American History Award:

  • Group Documentary: NWA: Against Police Brutality created by Nicole Abbondandelo, Alex Lourenso, Catie Ricciardelli and Katie Seccafico

Women’s History: 

  • Group Website: Betty Friedan: Lianna DeChiaro, Christina Nigro and Sara Frawley

Irish History: 

  • Group Documentary: Bobby Sands and the Irish Hunger Strike: Aidan McCooey and Michael McCooey

Physical and Life Sciences Award: 

  • Individual Website: The Charles Darwin Foundation created by Haley Mortell

Presidential History Award:

  • Individual Website: President Johnson and the War on Poverty created by Craig Haas

Citizen Activist Award:

  • Individual Exhibit: Rani Jhansi: Fighting for Her Country’s Freedom created by Zubair Ali

Naval History Award:

  • Individual Exhibit: The Atlantic Wall created by Brian Contreras

Equality in History Award:

  • Group Documentary: The Black Panthers created by Sam Bergman, Will Hebert & Levi Leach

Best Topic in Global History Ninth Grade: 

  • Group Exhibit: The Princess and the Peacock created by Livia D’Anna, Molly Kessler, Julia Segal and Hannah Avidor

Best Topic in Global History Tenth Grade: 

  • Group Website: Sarah Emma Edmonds: Christie Baade, Anna Crockett, Sophia LaCentra and Alyssa Sorensen

Best Topic in American History Eleventh Grade: 

  • Historical Paper: US Intervention in the Salvadoran Civil War: Brenda Veira-Pereira

Clio Award: (The Clio Award recognizes creators whose work exemplifies inventive thinking. Celebrating inspiration, honoring imagination and fostering creativity.)

  • Individual Documentary: Tupac Shakur created by Candido Martinez
  • Group Documentary: Jon Stewart and the Daily Show created by Lars Drace, Lukas Fleisig, Xavier Edgar-McNerney and Zach McGinniss

Jack Abrams Local History Award: 

  • Group Website: Nathan Hale: One Life is Too Short for a Patriot by Ryan Hoffmann, Neil Jean-Baptiste and Oskar Kilgour

Principal’s Award: 

  • Historical Paper: Harry Truman created by Maya DelGiudice

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