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Mendenhall Students Excel in National History Day Competition

May 7, 2020 - Livermore, CA - Eighteen talented William Mendenhall Middle School students excelled at the recent Alameda County 2020 National History Day (NHD) Competition. Due to public health concerns, this year’s county-wide competition was held in a new online format on March 14, 2020. Student projects were reviewed online and interviews were conducted remotely via Zoom. Through documentaries, exhibits, papers, performances and websites, students from Jennifer Winters and Robbie See’s 8th Grade Honors Core classes addressed topics related to the 2019-2020 National History Day theme, “Breaking Barriers in History.” 

This year, over 120 Mendenhall 8th Grade Honors Core students worked diligently over many months on project research, preparation and fine tuning their projects. By early spring, students shared their projects and were then selected by their teachers to compete in the school round. Caitlin Joe, 8th Grade Honors Core student, spoke to the value of participating in the NHD competition: “I learned from the National History day the importance of knowing the mistakes in the past so that we can use what we learned to further progress in the future.”

In the Junior Division, Mendenhall students were winners in six different categories. All students are eligible to advance with their projects to the statewide National History Day event. Claire Sahn earned winning marks for her documentary on Helen Keller, as did William Hodge for his documentary on the French and Indian War. Allysa Eaton created a website about Yellow Fever. Claire Taulbee and Joely Wolf partnered to create a website on Angel Island; Jack Varagas, Tyler Parr, and Roman Phillips worked together to create a Transcontinental Railroad website.

Several students created winning exhibits that showcased historical events and people. Jordan Sheehan’s exhibit on Smallpox, Justin Grumm’s exhibit on Barbed Wire, and Sophia McGinnis’s exhibit on Jacob Riis all earned top honors. Together, Megan Rivera and Payton Ray created an exhibit that told the story of Sarah Edmonds.

Prisha Seth won accolades for her individual performance about Albert Einstein. Megan Teczon, Grace Peterson, Katy Canaan and Jasmine Brand took honors for their group performance about Women’s Suffrage.

“I am thrilled that so many of our students’ projects won this competition,” added See, also Mendenhall’s Coordinator and Coach for the National History Day for the past 15 years. She continued, “I’m very proud of the tenacity of all these students, especially those who converted from tangible exhibits to online in just four days!” 

"Mendenhall is proud to engage our students in the National History Day Project,” said Principal Tammy Rankin. “This year, in particular, I am very proud of the outstanding research and demonstrations that our students created.” 

Since 2005, Mendenhall Middle School has proudly participated in the National History Day program, integrating it into the Middle School Common Core Social Science and History curriculum. National History Day is a nation-wide educational program that encourages students to explore local, state, national and world history as they develop communication, collaboration and critical thinking skills. At Mendenhall, the program is incorporated into the 8th Grade Honors Core classes as project-based learning. See said, “It’s a true privilege to coach students as they improve their projects from the classroom, to a school competition, then for the County, and finally the State finals. The growth and maturity I see is phenomenal!”

The California National History Day event will take place in a virtual format this year on May 8, 2020.