After months of intensive research and success at regional and state level competitions, Laura Stickells, a 2013-14 senior at Bishop Union High School, earned second place and the silver medal at National History Day on June 13 in College Park, MD. Her individual senior exhibit was titled, “The Bonus Army: A Turning Point in Veteran Rights.”
Stickells said her award-winning entry, presented on a large six-foot-tall exhibit board of “quotes, pictures, your own writing and analysis of the event,” was suggested to her by her history teacher Karyn Helfrich-Holland.
“The Bonus Army” consisted of about 20,000 World War I veterans who marched to Washington D.C. in the summer of 1932 to demand payment for the time they served in the war, Stickells explained. President Herbert Hoover and General Douglas MacArthur “drove the veterans out with tear gas, fire and cavalry,” Stickells said, but finally, in 1936, during President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration, with the support of Congress, the veterans received more rights.
Each fall more than half a million students nationwide begin the year-long National History Day program, competing in a series of history contests in their local schools, counties and states. Each state sends the top two students from each category to the national contest.
Participating students choose their own topics of study and conduct research from original sources based on a different theme each year, with this year’s theme being Turning Points in History. National History Day student competitors research historic documents and artifacts, conduct oral histories, search the Internet for archives and information on their topics and even travel to historic sites.
They present their work in a variety of ways, by creating exhibits, documentaries, performances, web sites, or historical research papers.
More than 300 historians and other education professionals evaluate the students’ work at the national competition. Entries come from all 50 states plus Guam, China, American Samoa and Southeast Asia. One-hundred-fifty thousand dollars’ worth of scholarships were awarded at the June 13 national awards ceremony to select students. Nine junior high and nine high school entries were awarded medals and took home cash prizes of between $250 and $5,000 for superior work in a particular category of judging.
Stickells has participated in History Day for the past eight years under the direction of her History Day coach, Gail Koske-Phillips. In addition to winning the medal, Stickells said participating in History Day will be advantageous on her high school transcript. She added, “I would like to thank Ms. Phillips for her help and for coaching me and Ms. Holland for giving me the excellent idea.”