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HomeEducationHernando County Students Shine at History Fair

Hernando County Students Shine at History Fair

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The past came alive at Weeki Wachee High School on March 9th as students from Hernando County’s public and private middle and high schools gathered to showcase their historical acumen at the annual district-wide history fair. This year’s theme, “Turning Points in History,” resonated through the corridors as young historians celebrated the 50th anniversary of National History Day with a display of scholarly creativity that would have awed any time traveler.

The competition was divided into Senior Division (Grades 9 – 12) and Junior Division (Grades 6 – 8) and featured a wide array of topics that spanned the breadth of human experience. Students presented their findings through various mediums−documentaries, dramatic presentations, written treatises, exhibits and websites, each delving into pivotal moments that have shaped our world. They were also required to write a process paper explaining how they went about their project and a research paper about their subject. Students could choose the topics they wanted to explore, which ranged from the mundane, such as how Piggly Wiggly changed the supermarket industry to the atom bomb’s enduring effect on our civilization. They could opt to work in a group or by themselves.

Among the many impressive entries, Springstead High school 10th grader Shaelynne Campbell won 2nd place in the Individual Exhibit/Senior Division for her exhibit on Joan of Arc. Shaelynne’s project highlighted how the Maid of Orléans defied the gender norms of her time, leading France to a pivotal victory in the Hundred Years’ War against England. Shaelynne’s work not only showcased her historical insight but also sparked conversations on the enduring impact of women in history.

“I’ve always been interested in learning about the past,” remarked Shaelynne. “In 6th grade I learned about Joan of Arc and I was fascinated because her accomplishments were in the 1400s. She was a poor young peasant girl in France. Women during that time didn’t have any rights at all and for her to lead the French to victory against the English was amazing. I was really surprised that he [the king of France] allowed this young girl to take charge. I didn’t know they were that desperate.”

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All the entries were scrutinized by a panel of judges. Each member of the panel assigned a numerical score to each criteria such as historical quality, how well the project related to the theme, the amount and kinds of research that went into the project and the clarity of the presentation. The project was then given an overall score. The judges also provided constructive criticisms so that the students could improve their projects for the next round of judging.

For Shaelynne, the judges suggested that she obtain opinions of Joan of Arc’s deeds from the English point of view.

In the Group Performance category, Ashley Wright and Valerie Weinel, also from Springstead High School, clinched first place with their portrayal of Nellie Bly’s ten-day investigative stay in a mental hospital. Their performance shed light on a turning point in the treatment of mental illness, echoing the fair’s theme by illustrating how one person’s courage can lead to systemic change.

The young ladies spent two months putting the entire project together, including research, writing the script, getting props together, deciding who would play which part, writing the process paper and research paper, practicing lines and putting the finishing touches on the set. It was a learning experience in many ways for Ashley and Valerie.

“I learned that due to her [Nellie Bly’s] investigative reporting, she advanced her journalism career and she gave other women the power to go further in their careers. She did a lot for all people, not just the mentally ill,” remarked Valerie.

Based on the judges’ feedback, Valerie and Ashley have some tweaking to do on their project before the statewide competition next month.

“The judges wanted to see a longer performance and more in depth about what she [Bly] did after her experience in the madhouse,” Ashley stated.

Springstead High School senior Allan An took first place in the Individual Documentary/Senior Division. His film was entitled “The Farm Security Administration as a Turning Point” and focused on the photography project that was part of that program. The purpose of this endeavor was to show the effects of the Great Depression on the rural population. But, it did more than that. It launched the careers of many relatively unknown photographers of the time, including Dorothea Lange and Gordon Parks.

This is Allan’s seventh, and last, year participating in the National History Day Project. He has advanced to the State competition every year since sixth grade, winning first place one year and qualifying for the National competition.

Allan explained why the events that his topic touched on were a turning point in history. “The Farm Security Administration improved the lives of rural Americans. It was also impactful to see the power of visual storytelling because the photographs focused more so on capturing the realities of life, not scripting the photos.”

He found that the FSA led to Congress enacting numerous laws to help farmers, share croppers and migrant workers, as well as other people in rural areas. The photography program furthered the art of that media as a means of making statements about social conditions and possibly bettering those conditions.

Allan plans to improve his documentary by interviewing family members or other people who knew some of these photographers personally, as well as historians who have studied this program in order to get their perspectives in the subject.

Alivia Hernandez, an eighth grader at West Hernando Middle School won first place in her division for her research paper about the implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act. She told of how this act, passed in 1974, stopped a practice that had been going on for more than a century. This practice was the effort to assimilate Native Americans into white society by forcibly removing the children from their families. These children were placed in foster homes, orphanages and schools in order to assimilate the Native American into white society. Not only were the children deprived of their culture, their language and their birth families, but they were often neglected and abused.

Due to a scarcity of information about this abominable practice, Alivia spent about six months doing extensive research. It was worth it because the judges were amazed at the information presented.

Alivia remarks, “They said, ‘Wow. This was very enlightening I never heard of this before.’ That’s something I would want to do in my writing−share information that people aren’t aware of.”

The only remarks the judges made as to how to improve her paper was for her to find more primary sources−quotations from people who actually lived these experiences. “They also told me that they thought I could speak for the other side more because it’s an argumentative paper,” Alivia stated.

Three students from Spring Hill Christian Academy placed first in the Middle School Group Exhibit category. The topic that Chinaza Ihejirika, Marco Davila, and Samuel Mayercak chose was the Great Depression.

“I learned that the Great Depression was a big factor leading to World War II because the people in Germany didn’t have much money or power so when Hitler came in they went along with him. The same thing happened with Mussolini in Italy,” remarked Chinaza.

Marco Davila added, “The most important thing I learned was about the stock market crash. Everybody thought the stocks wouldn’t crash because America’s economy was great. When the stock market crashed people went homeless and jobs were not available. World War II provided jobs for the people.

In addition to the research paper and process paper that all the students wrote, Marco, Samuel, and Chinaza’s exhibit was neatly put together with a multitude of pictures. There were also detailed descriptions underneath the pictures.

The History Fair was not just a display of historical knowledge but also a competition, with the stakes set high for those who placed first and second in their respective categories and divisions. These young scholars are now preparing to take their projects to the state competition in Tallahassee this May, with hopes of advancing to the national stage.

The event’s success is a testament to the dedication of Hernando County’s educators and the passion of its students. As they prepare for the state-level competition, these young people carry with them, not only their projects. but also the pride of their community. They stand as a reminder that history is not just about the past; it’s about the people who dare to reexamine it and the lessons we carry into the future.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of National History Day, we are reminded of the importance of understanding our past to navigate our present and future. The students of Hernando County have done just that, highlighting some turning points in history into a beacon of inspiration for us all.

The History fair was more than an academic event. It was a celebration of the human spirit, a testament to the power of education, and a preview of the bright futures these students have ahead of them. May their quest for knowledge and understanding of the past lead to many more turning points in their own histories.

2024 Hernando County History Day Results

Junior Division
Research Paper:
1st Place: “Indian Child Welfare Act” by Alivia Hernandez – West Hernando Middle School
2nd Place: “The Cuban Revolution” by Leanna Tejada – Challenger K-8

Individual Exhibit:
1st Place: “The Renaissance” by Julie Roust – Spring Hill Christian Academy
2nd Place: “FIFA’s Decision to Reinstate Women’s Football” by Peyton Crump – West Hernando Middle School

Group Exhibit:
1st Place: “Economic Crisis” by Marco Davila, Chinaza Ihejirika, Samuel Mayercak – Spring Hill Christian Academy
2nd Place: “The Chilling Case: How the Amber Alert was Created” by Mahlaiyah Garrison and Courben Volberg – West Hernando Middle School

Individual Website:
1st Place: “The Piggly Wiggly: How it Came, Fell and Left a Mark That Would Forever Effect Supermarkets” by Yaviell Rivera – West Hernando Middle School
2nd Place: “The Wheel and Axel” by Jack Bond

Group Website:
1st Place: “How the Crimean War Began Modern War” by Jaxson Bennett, Jesus Norabeuna and James Pelliccio – West Hernando Middle School
2nd Place: “How Steph Curry Changed NBA History”by Dylan Belzyt, Jazel Coria, Camron Kaneshige, Adam Sapp, and Aiden Taylor – West Hernando Middle School

Individual Documentary:
1st Place: “The Launch of Sputnik and a New Era: How One Satellite Turning Around the World Turned Around History” by Shakinah Demata – West Hernando Middle School

Group Documentary:
1st Place: “The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane: How One Massive Storm Changed Hurricane Preparation” by Sophia Martinez, Cadence Nadeau, Arianna Perez, and Ava Tzobanakis – West Hernando Middle School
2nd Place: “The Pulley” by Alexei Daliba, Mateo Martinez, Jaidyn Parreira, Gabriel Rivera, Emory Strachan – Powell Middle School
3rd: Place: “The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand” by Logan Dzurkoc , Brandon Guzman, Jacob Masson, Ricardo Santos, and Joshua Savage – Powell Middle School

Senior Division
Research Paper:
1st Place: “How the Pure Food and Drug Act was a Turning Point in American History” by Brooke Terry – F.W. Springstead High School
2nd Place: “The Invention of Electricity” by Ashley Loguercio – F.W. Springstead High School

Individual Exhibit:
1st Place: “Coco Chanel’s Legacy” by Sienna Nardi – F.W. Springstead High School
2nd: Place: “Joan of Arc“ by Shaelynn Campbell – F.W. Springstead High School

Group Exhibit:
1st Place: “Marvel“ by Josmarie Reynoso and Alexa Garcia – F.W. Springstead High School
2nd: Place: “Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire“ by Jenna Ludwig and Tanner Henrickson – F.W. Springstead High School

Individual Website:
1st Place: “Atomic Bomb: The Destruction of Asia“ by Delilah Weinel – F.W. Springstead High School
2nd: Place: “The Cuban Missile Crisis“ by Victoria Ramirez – F.W. Springstead High School

Group Website:
1st Place: “Launch of Sputnik 1: How the Launch of One Satellite Changed History Forever“ by Brad Baker, Ethan Debuhr, and Geoffrey Deese – Weeki Wachee High School
2nd: Place: The Columbian Exchange: The Effect the Columbian Exchange Had on Native Americans by Aubrey Ahrens and Jessie Wright – F.W. Springstead High School

Individual Documentary:
1st Place: “The Farm Security Administration Photography Project: A Turning Point in History“ by Alan An – F.W. Springstead High School

Group Documentary:
1st Place: The U.S. Forgotten Civil Rights Hero by Gianni Santa and Madison Sanders – F.W. Springstead High School

Individual Performance:
1st Place: “Dorthea Dix: A Turning Point towards Mental Health“ by Neveah Rowe – F.W. Springstead High School

Group Performance:
1st Place: “A Turning Point in Mental Health: Nelly Bly and 10 days of Madness“ by Ashley Wright and Valerie Weinel – F.W. Springstead High School

Allan An
Allan An
Alivia Hernandez
Alivia Hernandez
Shaelynn Campbell
Shaelynn Campbell

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