For two Nevada eighth-graders, the work it took to get through local History Day competition, regional History Day competition and State History Day competition was long, but well worth it.
Rebeka Bell and Madison Huynh are among 32 students in the state who will head to the University of Maryland next month to compete in National History Day.
Bell, daughter of Kari and Kevin Bell; and Huynh, daughter of Dan and Thong Huynh; competed against 375 other students in the junior division (grades six-eight) at the state competition to earn a berth in the national contest, which takes place June 9-14. They will compete against nearly 2,500 students from the United States, Guam, America Samoa, Department of Defense Schools in Europe and Shanghai, China, for scholarships and cash prizes at the national competition.
This is the second time a pair of Nevada eighth-graders has made it to Nationals, and remarkably, the first pair also included a Bell. That was Rebeka’s sister, Hanna. She and her partner Paige Plate, made it in 2010.
This year’s Bell said she had her older sister look over the website she and Huynh created a couple times, and the older Bell reviewed the bibliographies. "She was a big help (in those areas)," Bell said, "but sometimes she didn’t remember stuff."
It basically came down to Bell and Huynh working hard to prepare their project, which focused on The Seneca Falls Convention: Crossroads in Women’s Rights – which was their project’s title.
The project came about, Bell said, because she and her partner both felt that women are just as good as men, but there still seems to be a feeling that men are higher up. "We feel women are equal, so we wanted to do something to show support for women’s history and rights," Bell said.
"We were thinking about women’s rights and looking at websites and looking at what started women’s rights along the way, and we found the Seneca Convention. That’s what started it all," Huynh said.
Originally, the two were trying to tie in the entire women’s rights movement, but their teacher thought they should narrow the scope, to bring it more in line with this year’s History Day theme: "Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, Events."
"There were so many things that could have made a huge impact on women’s rights, but the whole thing didn’t start until the Seneca Falls Convention. That really set the whole thing in motion," Bell said.
The Seneca Falls Convention was held July 19 and 20, 1948. "It was a convention in New York, and they had all the women come on the first day, and men on the second day, and they talked about how women wanted equal rights. They made a listing," Huynh said. That listing is known as the "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions."
The project was not only educational, but also sometimes entertaining. Bell said she laughed at times watching the videos about some of the women suffragettes. "They were bold and independent and unladylike, and I connected that to myself, because I’m not very ‘girly girlish’," she said.
Huynh felt that connection, too. She also found it fun that in all their continuing research, they would find out new things that would be interesting. "When we were researching the five main women, we realized at the end that two of them were related. It was fun to uncover things like that," Huynh said.
With their success, both Bell and Huynh feel they must thank the teachers and advisors that worked with them at Nevada Middle School. Without people like Mr. Davis, Mrs. Ross, Ms. Apel and Ms. Netz, who offered support, critiques and ideas, they feel they wouldn’t have done this well.
Bell and Huynh also want to acknowledge the other two girls from Nevada who developed a website and went to state competition, ending up as alternates for Nationals. Bell admits that she thought their website project was just as good as hers and Huynh’s. Those two girls are Savannah Fitz and Nicole Dewell, whose History Day project focused on the Special Olympics. "They had an incredible project," Bell said.
To plan for their trip to Nationals, Bell and Huynh first had to put in more work on their History Day project. They took comments that the judges made at the State competition and applied a few changes to their project. They had to have those changes made by May 14.
With the help of the Nevada Education Foundation, who provided a nice grant, the school district is able to fund the two girls’ and their advisor’s trip to Nationals. Parents and family members accompanying them are paying their own way.
So all that’s left to do is think about what to pack and make plans for where they want to go while they’re in the Washington, D.C., area. Huynh said she is most looking forward to a trip to the Smithsonian Museum. She said her entire family – mom, dad and her 8-year-old brother Anthony – will all travel with her to the Nationals. They plan to stay a few days longer to go sightseeing.
Bell said her mother went on the trip with her sister three years ago, so her father plans to go with her on this trip. She is most looking forward to a visit to the World War II Memorial. "My dad’s grandfather served in World War II, so I really want to go to that memorial with my dad and see that," Bell said.