Eleven Huntington students went toe-to-toe with some of the best high schools in the state, if not the nation and came away with a pair of state championships and a special award at the State History Day finals in Cooperstown.
The showing is particularly spectacular considering the level of competition. Many of New York’s top high school students presented their projects after earlier qualifying through regional contests.
Huntington’s state championship projects included:
• Individual Documentary
Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASP): Winning Their War by Katie Riley
• Group Documentary
Diplomatic Relations on Trial: The First Spy Exchange of the Cold War by Andrew Knowles, Ryan Knowles, Paul Katigbak, Julien Rentsch
The research project team of Abigail Holmes, Madelyn Kye and Gabriel Medina-Jaudes claimed the Fort Ticonderoga Colonial History Award for their group exhibit titled: The Flushing Remonstrance and John Bowne: 360 Years of Refusing to Compromise on Religious Freedom.
The research project team consisting of Isabella Neira, Margaret Lalor and Moira Contino also impressed judges for their group documentary category work titled: Northern Ireland Troubles. Although the three sophomores didn’t bring home an award, the teenagers did make a recognizable splash at the state competition.
“What an incredible experience and achievement for our students,” said social studies teacher Lauren Desiderio, the high school’s History Day club advisor who coordinates the district’s National History Day program. “Their dedication to historical research and determination to improve their projects continues to amaze me. All of our students put in an incredible amount of work editing and perfecting their projects prior to the state competition. I am thrilled their work was recognized and rewarded.”
The two state championship projects will now advance to the National History Day finals at the University of Maryland at College Park in June. Huntington has never before sent two projects that won state titles to the national finals.
“Participation at the state competition is always highly competitive and Huntington had a spectacular showing,” Mrs. Desiderio said. “Over the course of the last several years, Huntington has solidified itself as a premier program for historical research. We have never sent two first place documentaries to the national competition. We hope to build upon the success we saw last year at the nationals when Aidan Forbes won third place for his historical paper. Overall, I’m so proud of our students and honored to work with them!”
If ever there was a heavyweight academic competition this was it. Students traveled to Cooperstown from across the state ready to present their projects to judges who went over the work with a proverbial fine-tooth comb.
“Katie Riley’s individual documentary of the WASPs (Women Air Force Service Pilots) was impactful and inspirational. These ‘original fly girls’ played an integral role during World War II and for decades have been overlooked. These women are now acknowledged as veterans of WWII and were officially awarded the Congressional Gold Medal only a few years ago. As April is recognized as Women’s History Month, this project is particularly relevant.”
The Huntington teenagers were truly on top of their game, even after traveling nearly 250 miles to the Village of Cooperstown, where the competition played out at three different sites including the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
“Paul, Andrew, Ryan and Julien’s documentary on the Cold War’s first spy exchange is thrilling,” Mrs. Desiderio said. “Their storytelling and evaluation of the negotiations behind the release of Francis Gary Powers was expertly done. As one of the most dramatic episodes of the Cold War, I learned so much from their project and hope to show it to all of my tenth grade students as we finish up our unit on the Cold War era.”
The research team behind the project that captured the Fort Ticonderoga Colonial History Award was also praised. Considering how many sensational students and projects converged on Cooperstown for State History Day, walking away with any award at all is a major accomplishment.
“Having never personally heard of the Flushing Remonstrance, I learned an incredible about of United States history from Maddy, Gabe and Abby’s group exhibit,” Mrs. Desiderio said. “They went above and beyond uncovering research about the importance of Flushing and religious tolerance. This truly remarkable historical document is considered by many historians to be the predecessor to the First Amendment and I find it stunning that I had never heard of it prior to their National History Day project!”