- Cherry Creek School District No. 5
Challenge School student to represent CCSD in National History Day national contest
Challenge School eighth-grader Saahithi Kasa will represent the Cherry Creek School District in the National History Day national contest, which will be held virtually June 16-20. The competition will involve some 3,000 students from all fifty United States, Washington, D.C., Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands and international schools in China, Korea and South Asia.
Kasa’s journey to the national contest began at the Challenge School last fall when all of the school’s seventh- and eighth-grade students began work on a project for the Challenge History Day.
“We really feel this is a quintessential project-based learning experience,” said Challenge School Language Arts Teacher Rachael Kessler. She explained that students learn how to do research using primary and secondary sources. Then they must formulate a thesis statement that relates to the National History Day theme for the year. This year, the theme was Debate & Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences. For their project, students could write a paper, produce a documentary or create an exhibit or a website.
Kasa chose to build a website about Chilean poets and Nobel Prize winners Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral. This was her thesis statement: The works of 20th century Chilean poets Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda emphasize the triumph of poetry in diplomacy. The words of these Nobel Prize laureates shaped education reform, civil rights for indigenous people and resistance to the Spanish Civil War, creating a standard for writers to advocate for humanitarian and human rights.
“One of the reasons I did a website was their poetry, which was so meaningful that I wanted people to not only see a few lines of it, but to be able to read the entire poem,” Kasa said. She placed second at the regional History Day competition, which earned her a ticket to the state competition. There, she won first place and the opportunity to compete in the national contest.
Kasa was one of more than 20 Challenge School students who chose to enter their project in the regional level of the National History Day competition. Seventh-grader Saachi Tekriwal earned second place at regionals and got to compete at state with her paper on the lack of diplomacy surrounding the Bay of Pigs incident. While she doesn’t get to go on to the national contest, Tekriwal said competing was still a very worthwhile experience.
“It was a really interesting way to expand my knowledge of history and I really liked my project,” Tekriwal said. “I learned so much about doing research, organizing information, citing sources and creating annotated bibliographies.”
While those skills will undoubtedly help Tekriwal throughout her school years, they are only part of the benefit of participating in the National History Day program.
“I think the best part of being part of this whole competition and environment in general is the community and meeting a bunch of people who have a similar interest in history and are arguably devoted to it,” said eighth-grader Nisha Kathiresan, who earned third place in the website category at the regional competition with her website on The Delayed Critique of D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation.
Fellow eighth-grader Phoenix Hailemariam won first place at regionals for her documentary advocating an end to the war on drugs, a topic she is passionate about. She was glad to have an opportunity to speak out about her findings that rehabilitation is more effective than incarceration for drug addicts. She encourages other students to do the same.
“Your voice matters as much as anyone else’s, and this is a great way to share your opinion and share your knowledge with the world,” Hailemariam said.
“A lot of these kids have a story to tell,” she said. “They have a perspective that should be shared. Just because they’re 13 and 14 doesn’t mean they don’t have something important to say.”
Kessler says students who participate in the National History Day program also hone their critical thinking skills, something that will benefit them throughout their lives.
“It’s really about learning about the past to see how it’s influenced today and then using it as guidance for tomorrow, for the future,” she said.
Good luck to Saahithi Kasa as she competes in the National History Day national contest, and congratulations to all of the Challenge School students who competed at the regional and state levels:
National History Day Regional Competition Results
Preethi Gurumurthi, Grade 7: 1st place
Saahithi Kasa, Grade 8: 2nd place
Nisha Kathiresan, Grade 8: 3rd place
Naaz Ahuja, Grade 8
Yohanna Gideon, Grade 8
Kiran Hirz, Grade 8 :1st place
Saachi Tekriwal, Grade 7: 2nd place
Alex Gallimore, Grade 7: 3rd Place
Annika Hartman, Grade 7
Lyla Hanson, Grade 8
Amirah Esmael, Grade 8
Grace Marmostein, Grade 7
Lucy Dunkly, Grade 7
Simar Singh and Connor Kelly, Grade 8: 1st place
Dannica Ward, Grade 8: 2nd place
Tensaye Yalew, Grade 8: 3rd place
Rehanna Mohammed, Grade 8
Edna Tilahun, Grade 7
Phoenix Hailemariam Grade 8: 1st place
Krit Krishna, Grade 8: 2nd place
Ellie Johnson, Grade 8: 3rd place
David Mirza, Grade 8