Huntington students have always been among the leaders in the National History Day initiative on Long Island and across the state and country. That same tradition continues today as hundreds of students spread across grades 6-12 have prepared projects for this year’s contest.
The 2018 national theme is “Conflict and Compromise in History.” Teams of teachers have been judging projects submitted in five formats: historical research papers, museum exhibits, video or computer generated documentaries, theatrical performances, and websites. Besides individual entries, all categories except papers can be completed by a group of up to five students.
Huntington High School’s History Day club coordinates the National History Day program in the district. Led by club faculty advisor and social studies teacher Lauren Desiderio, National History Day will be celebrated at the high school on Thursday, February 8 at 7 p.m. Projects will be on display in the auditorium lobby. An awards ceremony will follow in the auditorium.
Huntington’s History Day club is led by executive board members Maggie Giles (president), Gaia D’Anna (vice president), Isabella Piccola (recording secretary), Nicole Arenth (corresponding secretary), Alyssa Befumo (treasurer), Isabella McGinniss (historian) and administrative assistants Niamh Condon, Erica Vazquez and Max Robins.
This year’s program includes participation by 31 sixth graders who are in the district’s SEARCH program. “This is the first year that Huntington has had sixth grade competitors and we are very excited about this development,” Mrs. Desiderio said. “Under the guidance of first year SEARCH teacher Jessica Risalvato, our sixth graders have been working for the past few months researching their projects and creating exhibits. These exhibits will be on display Thursday night. We really look forward to personally recognizing each student and their hard work.”
Six J. Taylor Finley Middle School eighth graders will also be participating under the guidance of social studies teacher Jarrad Richter. “Our History Day club officers had a wonderful time going to Finley to help mentor students and talk about the benefits of participating in the competition,” Mrs. Desiderio said.
About 300 Huntington High School students are participating in the program and Mrs. Desiderio said the competition in each category has been “fierce.”
“Our judges have been working diligently, carefully evaluating each project,” Mrs. Desiderio said. “We can’t wait to announce our winning projects on Thursday. Our students have produced superb projects this year. We hope to build upon last year’s successes at the state and national levels.”
The top three entries in each category will advance to the Long Island regional competition at Hofstra University on Sunday, March 18. The state finals will be held in the spring in Cooperstown with the national championships scheduled for the University of Maryland at College Park in June.
“The humanities program is very proud of the hard work our students have exhibited over these past months on their research,” said Joseph Leavy, department chairman. “We are looking forward to an evening of historical learning. We also welcome first time participating sixth graders from the SEARCH program and several entries from students at J. Taylor Finley Middle School.”
Introducing the National History Day initiative to sixth graders and mentoring them and Finley students has been one of the highlights of the year for the History Day club officers.
“It is so great to see that these kids are eager to learn about National History Day,” Ms. Piccola said. “It is an amazing way to begin learning about research and creating a project.”
Mrs. Desiderio believes next Thursday night’s crowd will be impressed by the SEARCH students’ projects. “Seeing sixth graders be able to accomplish this difficult project, especially at such a young age is amazing and I am so glad they are so invested in history,” Ms. Vazquez said.
The high school students believe the sixth graders will reap many dividends down the road from their participation.
“I wish I had the opportunity to complete a project like National History Day when I was in sixth grade,” Ms. McGinnis said. “I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to create NHD research projects in ninth, tenth and eleventh grades as they have helped me acquire necessary skills that I’ve been able to apply in classes like AP Seminar and AP Research.”
National History Day continues to grow in the Huntington School District. “The kids that take advantage of the opportunity to start National History Day before high school will be so much better off when it comes to research projects in high school,” Ms. D’Anna said. “I wish I had been given the opportunity when I was their age.”
With nearly 400 participants in this year’s program, the study of history is clearly alive and well in the district.
“It’s great to be able to help out the kids with their projects at both the middle school and high school levels as a mentor in the History Day club,” Ms. Arenth said. “I appreciate their hard work.”
A large crowd is expected in the high school auditorium on Thursday night. In addition to announcing the top places in each of the competition categories, a long list of special awards will also be presented.
It promises to be a delightful evening for each of the History Day club officers as well as for Mrs. Desiderio, Mr. Leavy and the faculty members and parents who nurtured and guided the participants through the research and project development process.
“We have truly enjoyed helping students across the district with National History Day this year,” Ms. Befumo said. “I’m very excited to see whose projects will be moving onto the regional competition at Hofstra.”