Hard work paid off for a group of Bronxville High School students who brought history to the present, earning top honors at a national historical competition against some of the top teenage minds in the country.
Bronxville High School sophomores Charlotte Dotson, Sabrina Mellinghoff, Emily Perry, Sofia Riccarini and Grace Sperber won the gold medal in the group exhibit at the national finals of the 2018 National History Day Contest, which was held on June 10 through June 14 at the University of Maryland, where they competed against winners from all 50 states and United States territories.
The students, who have been conducting “extensive historical research for several months,” represented New York after winning first place at the statewide competition, held last month in Cooperstown.
At the national competition, the five students presented their original exhibit, ““Arusha Accords: A Genocidal Compromise.” The judges included college professors and historians who had firsthand experience on the ground in Rwanda after the genocide.
Each year, students display their authentic work in one of five ways – paper, website, documentary, performance or exhibit – on a specific theme. This year’s National History Day theme was “Conflict and Compromise,” which drew more than 600,000 participants nationwide.
Dana Landesman and Christina Reidel, who brought the program to Bronxville High School, as well as Bill Meyer, have coached the students throughout the school year in presentation and historical research skills.
“This is a great accomplishment for the Bronxville School,” Mara Koetke, the Director of Curriculum and Instruction said. “(It) speaks to our emphasis on engaged citizenship, critical thinking and analysis that occurs in every content area in every grade.”
School officials noted that Dotson, Mellinghoff, Perry, Riccarini and Sperber also worked with performance coach Karen DeMauro and design consultant Robert Ko, who provided them with individualized strategies and targeted feedback to help enhance their presentation skills. First place winners are named National Endowment for the Humanities Scholars.
“The work students put into these projects is astounding,” National History Day Executive Director Cathy Gorn said. “To make it to the national contest is a remarkable achievement. Less than 1 percent of all projects make it to this level. It requires a superb level of research and critical thinking skills. I am confident that we will continue to see great things from all of these students because the skills learned through competing in National History Day help prepare students for success in college and career.”
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