Four spectacular Huntington High School project teammates aren’t content just being state champs. No; Andrew Knowles, Ryan Knowles, Paul Katigbak and Julien Rentch are now taking aim at All-American honors at the National History Day finals at the University of Maryland at College Park in June.
The four teenagers collaborated on a group documentary that captured first place honors at State History Day in Cooperstown and earned an automatic berth in the national finals.
“Diplomatic Relations on Trial: The First Spy Exchange of the Cold War” is an exceptional research project that has impressed judges during separate local, Long Island regional and state level competitions.
The project tells the story behind the release of accused American spy Francis Gary Powers, whose U-2 reconnaissance plane was shot down by the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War in 1960. Powers was captured and interrogated for months. The Soviets convicted him of spying during a show trial. He was eventually released during a prisoner exchange over a bridge in Berlin.
“States was an amazing experience for me and my group,” Mr. Rentsch said. “We were able to learn so much from the other documentaries and we’re excited for the national competition!”
The national finals will be held June 10-14 at the University of Maryland at College Park. Huntington Class of 2018 valedictorian Aidan Forbes garnered third place at last year’s national competition.
Huntington social studies teacher Lauren Desiderio, who coordinates the district’s National History Day program and serves as the high school’s History Day club advisor has been helping the project team prepare for the national finals. Chairperson of Humanities Joseph Leavy is coordinating details of the trip to Maryland.
“It was an incredible experience up in Cooperstown,” Andrew Knowles said. “I’m so honored to be part of this team and to represent Huntington.”
This year’s national theme is “Conflict and Compromise in History.” Students across the country are free to choose any project topic from any period in history and apply the theme to it.
Huntington’s Spectacular Four is still on Cloud Nine following their trip to Cooperstown and winning the state title there.
“It was nice to revisit such a historic site and important piece of New York’s history,” said Ryan Knowles about the trip north. “We’re so excited to compete at the nationals. It’s a little tough to work with the Regents schedule, but thankfully Mrs. Desiderio and Mr. Leavy are coordinating it for us.”
“National History Day is a non-profit educational organization that promotes the teaching and learning of history in middle and high schools around the world through a variety of programs for teachers and students,” according the organization’s website. “Established in 1974, the National History Day contest encourages more than half a million middle and high school students around the world to conduct original research on historical topics of interest.”
“Going into the state competition we definitely had high hopes, but until we were awarded with first place we had no idea we would be representing New York State at the nationals,” Mr. Katigbak said. “It truly was a surreal experience.”
With an All-American finish within their grasp, the four sensational Huntington teenagers intend to be fully prepared to discuss their research and analysis with the judges in Maryland and then be content to let the chips fall where they may.