First Place, Two Awards for First-Time National History Day Competitors
Oyster Bay High School junior Shania Kuo made history for the District when she took first place at the National History Day Regional Competition at Hofstra University. Shania, who competed for the first time with four other classmates, was first in the “Paper Division” for her paper on “Mao’s Decision to Intervene in Korea.”
“Shania’s paper went up against 24 of the best papers on Long Island from schools such as Hewlett, The Wheatley School, and Herricks, and it was found to be the most thorough and analytical, based on the National History Day rubric,” said K-12 Social Studies Supervisor Mr. Joseph Pesqueira. “This is an unbelievable accomplishment for a student participating in the National History Day competition for the first time.”
Shania’s win qualifies her for the state competition in Cooperstown, New York on April 23. The top two entries from each category advance to the National History Day competition, June 10-14, at the University of Maryland, College Park.
In addition, Shania was the recipient of the “Excellence in Asian Studies Award,” sponsored by Hofstra’s Asian Studies program. Junior Julia Sherbal, who created a website on “Stonewall and Gay Rights,” was selected for the “Conservation, Preservation, Restoration or Entry Tied to an Historic Site Award,” sponsored by Fire Island National Seashore. Also competing were senior Sahill Yadav, who wrote a paper on “The Philippine Insurgency,” senior Braedon Warshaw, who penned a paper on “Charles Martel,” and junior Isabella Rosenthal, with her performance, titled “Secret Presidency.” All of the topics fell within the theme of the competition, "Conflict and Compromise."
The students are the first in the District to take the National History Day course at Oyster Bay High School, which was advocated by Mr. Pesqueira and piloted for the 2017-18 school year. The class is taught by social studies teacher Mr. David Pontillo with the goal of preparing students to compete in the National History Day competitions.
“The class was totally student-directed, meaning the students chose the topics themselves, they chose the type of project they wanted to do themselves, and they did their research on their own,” Mr. Pontillo said. “I was there for help, advice or constructive criticism, but they did all the heavy lifting themselves and they all did very well.”
Oyster Bay High School students took home first place and two awards at the National History Day Regional Competition. Pictured in first row, from left, is first place and special award winner Shania Kuo and Isabella Rosenthal. In second row, from left, is Principal Ms. Sharon Lasher, special award winner Julia Sherbal, Sahill Yadav, Braedon Warshaw, social studies teacher Mr. David Pontillo and K-12 Social Studies Supervisor Mr. Joseph Pesqueira.
Shania, whose project took over 100 hours to complete, said winning first place was “surprising and almost surreal."
"I have ties to Taiwan and wanted to focus on Taiwan’s history because there isn’t a lot out there; I had a difficult time finding primary sources of research, as opposed to China’s history where there are millions of documents,” she said.
Through her research, she learned how much Taiwan benefited from the Korean War. “While people found the war as a big failure, it was actually a big opportunity for the Taiwanese,” she said.
Julia, who has taken computer science classes in high school, decided to create a website and spotlight the Stonewall Inn in lower Manhattan and the mistreatment that people faced in the LBGT community, especially during the 1960’s, because it is a topic that is personal to her and is a part of history that isn’t talked about a lot, she said.
“The National History Day course is an important experience for students to do meaningful research in the social sciences and learn about topics that truly interest them,” Mr. Pesqueira added. “So often we have our prescribed curriculum from the state. This gives students the opportunity to explore topics that truly interest them in ways that they could not before. Many thanks to Mr. Pontillo, whose tireless work with all five of our students was crucial to their success in this research competition.”