Student history projects from three area communities — Bangor, Holmen and Onalaska — emerged at the top of the list during the recent regional finals for National History Day at UW-La Crosse. Chosen projects will move on to the state competition May 4 in Madison.
Teachers from all the schools represented — Bangor Middle/High School, Holmen Middle School and Onalaska High School and Onalaska Middle School — were in agreement that the projects and the research involved in creating them will serve the students in good stead no matter what they do later in life.
“It’s kind of like a science fair for kids who like history,” said Jacob Szymborski, social studies teacher at Onalaska Middle School. “These skills are going to stick when they go on to college.”
The theme for this year’s competition is “Turning Points in History,” and students were judged in categories that included individual and group exhibits, papers, documentaries and performances.
Jenna Sorenson, Asmaa Ahmed and Sarah Rosacker a trio from Onalaska High School, earned a trip to the state competition in Madison with a group performance on “The Right to Vote, the Right to Act and the Right to Be: An Examination of Women’s Suffrage.”
Sorenson said they were inspired to research that topic after seeing the number of women who voted in the 2012 presidential election.
“The UW-L competition went really well,” Sorenson said. “Our group was filled with nerves but ended up scoring really well.”
Nerves over being judged were a problem for many of the participants on the day of the competition.
“When I woke up at 6:30 I was not nervous at all,” said Rachel Fries. “Once I got there though, I was extremely nervous. After the judging I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.”
Fries and fellow Holmen middle schooler Ashley Kromke put together an exhibit called “The Year the Girls Took Over” about a professional baseball league for women. The judges liked it enough to award them a trip to state.
Kassidy Wuensch, a freshman at Bangor High School did a solo project on La Crosse’s pearl button company called “From the Empty Shells.”
“They (the judges) were pretty excited that it was local history,” Wuensch said.
In addition to the 28 students who will go on to the state competition, judges at the regional at UW-L handed out a number of monetary awards in specific categories (these award winners did not necessarily qualify for state competition).