County sends three to National History Day contest

Solana Ranch School
Solana Ranch School state Honorable Mention winners Sydney Mafong and Kaelyn Liu (pictured above at the San Diego County National History Day competition in March where they won in the Group Documentary division).

Four student projects from San Diego County recently won honors in the National History Day California competition. Three went on to the national competition, where one received a special award.

National History Day California was held virtually this year, with 1,698 students participating from 29 counties, including 82 from San Diego County. Students choose their own topics related to an annual theme; this year’s theme was “Breaking Barriers in History.”

Students do original research using historical documents and artifacts, oral histories, Internet searches and library holdings, and some may travel to historical sites. They present their work in several categories: exhibits, documentaries, websites, performances, posters or traditional research papers. Historians, educators and other professionals evaluate their work.

After competing in district and county-level competitions, these winners were named champions at the state level, and their projects competed virtually at the national level:

  • Jefferson Smith, Francis Parker School, Senior Individual Documentary, “Home from the War; the Vietnam Veteran Experience.” At the national level, also held virtually, Smith’s documentary won the Outstanding Affiliate Award.
  • Oliver Charat-Collins, Canyon Crest Academy, Senior Individual Exhibit, “Solving Smallpox: The Medical Breakthrough of the First Vaccine.”
  • Elsa Baumgartner and Addy Phillips, Francis Parker School, Senior Group Website, “Printing a Revolution: Breaking Barriers to Scientific Advancement.”

In the state competition, Honorable Mention in Junior Group Documentary went to Solana Ranch Elementary students Sydney Mafong and Kaelyn Liu for “The Original 9: Serving, Slicing and Smashing Through Gender Barriers.”

In addition, three county students were named champions in the Elementary Poster division. They did not compete at the national contest, as that category is only for California. The winners were:

  • Waits Engval Spielman, Urban Discovery School, “D-Day: Breaking Through the Nazi Fortress Europe”;
  • Darby Wright, The Nativity School, “WASPs Break Army Gender Barriers to Help Allies Win World War 2”;
  • Bridge Han, Ericson Elementary, “Deaf President Now: The Protest that Shattered the World’s Perception of the Deaf.”

At the state competition, several special awards also went to San Diego County students:

  • Conference of California Historical Societies Award: Cate Hasler, Francis Parker School, Senior Individual Exhibit,”Dolores Huerta: Breaking Barriers for Migrant Farm Workers.”
  • 2020 Women’s Vote Centennial Commission, History of Women’s Suffrage Award: Eden Smith, Samantha Kim, Francis Parker School, Junior Group Website, “Breaking Gender Barriers: Women in Pants”; also, Joanne Lee, Canyon Crest Academy, Individual Website, “Breaking Pride and Prejudice: Disrupting Social Conventions of the 19th Century Through Women Writers.”
  • Law Office of Steven M. Olson, William E. Geary Award for Military History: Jefferson Smith, Francis Parker School, Senior Individual Documentary, “Home from the War: the Vietnam Veteran Experience.”


— Laura Groch is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune