Eighth grader Anne-Sophie Lacombe will be flying to the University of Maryland in June to compete with 3,000 other students at the national level in the National History Day competition (NHD).
Lacombe was the only one of five high schoolers and 12 middle schoolers to move on to the national round after two days of competition at William Jessup University in Rocklin, May 6-7.
She received a placing of Champion, which qualified her for nationals, for her junior performance on the Newsboys Strike of 1899.
Lacombe said she was overwhelmed with joy once she heard she had won.
“I had a huge sigh of relief,” Lacombe said.
“I knew that all my hard work had paid off, and then I had a mini heart attack thinking about Maryland and how fun of an experience it would be!”
“I was really happy because I knew how proud my mom would’ve been because she unfortunately passed away before I could even show her a rough draft of my performance.”
Lacombe’s mother, Alejandra Garcia Williams, died of stage 4 lung cancer on Dec.20.
Lacombe said that her mother was an inspiration to her from the beginning.
“I remember she would always tell me, ‘If you put your mind to it, you can succeed. Just wait and see; you will make it to those nationals!’”
Project facilitator Chris Kuipers said he was thrilled for Lacombe.
“She literally told me a year ago, as a seventh grader, that she was going to make nationals,” Kuipers said.
“In the year since, she’s put in tremendous effort and passion, and I was delighted to see her achieve her goal.”
Lacombe said she has been excited about NHD since seventh grade.
“Ever since (the day Kuipers told me about NHD) I would always ask him for updates about that year’s competition and further information.
“The funny thing is when I went to see the musical, ‘Newsies,’ I actually thought, ‘Man, this could really be a really great NHD topic if I had the right theme!’ A year later it turned out that I had the perfect theme: Taking a Stand in History.”
Five high schoolers – freshmen Héloïse Schep and Jackson Margolis and sophomores Allison Zhang, Alex Rogawski and Joe Mo – also competed in the state competition.
Schep was a finalist in the senior essay category but did not rank Champion for her paper on Aletta Jacobs, a Dutch suffragist and pacifist.
“I did really well, but there were a lot of people competing,” Schep said.
“It was really fun, though, because the judges were all experienced writers and professional historians,” she said.
The finalists for the categories were released on May 6 at 11 p.m., and Schep was ecstatic when she heard she was a finalist.
But even after Schep saw the results online the next day and saw that she had not won, Schep was content.
“I was originally sad,” Schep said. “But it was already so great making finalist that I was happy I had competed.”
Margolis, who competed in the senior performance category with a presentation about Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, was also glad he competed.
“I am glad I pushed through it all,” Margolis said. “I learned a lot about Gandhi and other historical figures from other presentations.”
Margolis attributes his loss to the judges’ preferences.
“The judges tended to like performances where the performer had a connection to the topic,” Margolis said.
“There was one where a girl did a performance on Japanese immigration, and her grandfather was a Japanese immigrant.
“I was at a disadvantage because I had no connection to (Gandhi).”
Margolis said he plans to add more technology into his performance next year.
He said he was inspired by one performance on Harriet Tubman in which the student used iMovie and a projector to provide more information.
Zhang, Rogawski and Mo competed in the senior group website category with a website on Edward Snowden, a former U.S. government employee who leaked information to the press about the National Security Administration’s surveillance programs.
The group had won Champion in the regional competition on March 4 but did not place in the state competition.
But Zhang said she had a lot of fun.
“I enjoyed having a group project because I could bounce ideas off my teammates, and there wasn’t as much pressure on the individual,” she said.
Rogawski agreed with Zhang.
“It was definitely worth it,” he said.
Zhang attributes the loss partly to their group interview on Saturday night.
“It was really weird,” Zhang said.
“It was a 10-minute interview, and in the first five minutes (they asked us) to pick one part of our website to show the judges.
“That’s what really threw us off. We had trouble agreeing on just one part of our website because our entire website worked together as a whole.”
In the end, the group decided to present the webpage on the consequences of Snowden’s actions since everyone in the group had contributed to the page.
But Zhang said that might have lost them some points.
“The theme was ‘Take a Stand,’” she said.
“So it was kind of weird for us to be presenting on consequences and not something that had to do with the theme.”
Mo said he was thinking about doing a documentary next year.
Kuiper’s said he was extremely proud of everyone who competed.
“It was a great opportunity to showcase some of their excellent work, and they represented the school very well,” Kuipers said.
“I also think presenting and discussing your work in front of judges is just a wonderfully valuable experience for our students.”
Kuiper’s, who will teach AP European History next year, said he will offer his support more directly to high schoolers who compete in 2018.
“This year, pretty much everything the high schoolers did was by themselves,” he said. “I hope that with the changes to my teaching load next year, I’ll have more time to provide additional assistance.”
He added that he’d like to some day incorporate NHD into the high-school curriculum.
—By Jack Christian