Huntington Qualifies Six for
State History Finals
To see so many teenagers excited about studying history surprises some, warms the hearts of others and renews the faith in education of many. Six Huntington School District students are headed to the National History Day state finals in Cooperstown after reaping honors at the Long Island regional competition last week.
Joseph Leavy, district director of humanities, said this marks Huntington's best showing ever in the prestigious history competition and called it an "outstanding" showing. The students qualified for the LI event through a local competition at Huntington High School that drew 110 entries.
The Huntington High School National History Day club is led by social studies teacher Lauren Desiderio. It's counterpart at J. Taylor Finley Middle School is known as the Yorker club. It is guided by social studies teacher Esmeralda Tello.
The Huntington students were among 450 teenagers from dozens of schools to qualify for the regional finals at Hofstra University. The competition featured many of the top students from Nassau and Suffolk. By any measure, the Huntington teenagers were remarkable, impressing the judges as well as those in the crowd.
Huntington's top place finishers included:
Senior Divison – Huntington High School
Collin Richardson: 1st place Individual Website – "Child Labor"
Holly Blakley and Justin LoScalzo: 3rd place Group Documentary – "Eugenics"
Brielle Blatt and Samantha Palmer: 3rd place Group Exhibit – "Robert Moses"
Laura Zenzerovich: Best in School Senior Historical Paper – "Benjamin Franklin: A Patriot in Paris" (This category does not advance to the state finals.)
Junior Division – J. Taylor Finley Middle School
Thomas Kouttron: 2nd place Historical Paper and Best in School – "Dred Scott and the Interpretation of the Constitution"
"Words cannot describe how proud I am of all the students who participated in our National History Day Competition this year," Mrs. Desiderio said. "The projects students completed were some of the most creative and well-researched that Huntington students have created since we began competing in this prestigious national competition. While at Hofstra University, students, parents, teachers and judges alike were blown away by the projects our students put together."
Powerful Experience for Participants
"My experiences with National History Day can only be described as amazing," Mr. Richardson said. "I thought I had completed my website over a dozen times but always ended up going back to tweak it. I have to say, all the hard work paid off in the end as I won first place in my category. I had a great time at Hofstra and am really looking forward to coming back next year. State finals, here I come!"
Huntington's honorees clearly got an adrenaline rush from their experience. "National History Day has given me the opportunity to become passionate and engaged in a local history topic," Ms. Palmer said. "It helped me develop a better ability to explore and synthesize new perspectives, and taught me to have a deeper appreciation of history. It was, all-around, an enjoyable and rewarding experience. I am very excited to move onto the state competition in April!"
Mr. LoScalzo also had positive feelings about his participation in the national competition. "National History Day has been a rewarding experience for many reasons," he said. "It has helped me not only develop my understanding of topics in history, but also allowed me to work on my skills in needed to present a persuasive argument. This experience is one that will help me be successful in future endeavors, whether it is history day next year, other competitions or life situations."
Ms. Blatt is on an academic high after qualifying for the state finals. "Participating in the National History Day competition for the past two years has been an exhilarating experience," she said. "It is a feeling of accomplishment to succeed and move on to the next level of competition."
Even those who didn't advance to the state championship were able to walk away feeling good. "National History Day has been a resourceful experience and has provided me with insight on the world's past," said Chris Napolitano who took first place in the individual documentary category during the local Huntington competition. "I am confident that the information I obtained while conducting my research will stick with me for the rest of my life."
Graber is Immensely Proud
"I'm immensely proud of all the work that these students have completed," said James Graber, who teaches AP U.S. History at the high school. "Each of them has shown tremendous dedication, critical thinking and professionalism. National History Day is a great opportunity to explore historical passions and these projects are reflective of the high standards Mrs. Desiderio and the rest of the social studies department expect."
"I cannot commend our students enough, some of who have been working on their projects since the summer, for their extraordinary efforts as this is the most students in school history to move onto the state competition," Mrs. Desiderio said. "I would like to thank and congratulate everyone that participated and would also like to thank the social studies department who volunteered their time to help judge our local competition this past January."
Mrs. Desiderio also thanked Mrs. Tello for her efforts at Finley and faculty colleagues James Graber, Peter Crugnale and Jordan Gould, "who have helped me mentor our students through this rigorous process. National History Day is a rewarding and educating experience that I am very proud to be apart of."
The state finals are slated for April 29 at the New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown. The top finishers there will advance to the national championship in June on the campus of the University of Maryland at College Park.
"This program brings great prestige to our schools and district as our students' work is highly regarded by judges on the regional level and now, hopefully, at the state competition in Cooperstown," Mr. Leavy said. "I have witnessed the growth of this program from its inception almost 15 years ago and can honestly report that Huntington is on the map in the high reaches of this nationally known historical research competition."
Mr. Leavy initiated Huntington's participation in the program when he was a teacher in the district at J. Taylor Finley Middle School. Teacher Camille Tedeschi took over for Mr. Leavy as the program's faculty advisor and grew it during her tenure before passing the torch to Mrs. Desiderio, who participated in it as a student and has brought it to its current level of success in the district. Mrs. Tello has revived the program at Finley, where it all began in 1997.
Thomas Kouttron has continued his family's legacy of excellence in the National History Day competition. His older brothers, Dane, Chris and Anthony, all had award winning entries in past years. "No family comes close to what these boys achieved and now the full force of four is rounded out as Thomas, the youngest, brings home second place in junior historical paper with a trip to Cooperstown," Mr. Leavy said.