Students developed topics ideas related to the annual theme, “Breaking Barriers in History,” and engaged in historical research in the fall. Reflecting on the research process, Joseph said, “I’d never done a really large research project and this experience taught me a lot about all the messy details of hunting for information.” In fact, no one at Reedley had ever completed a History Day project before. Advisor Anna Lehrman stated, “We were flying by the seat of our pants most weeks – we had to figure everything out together. We were an underdog story if there ever was one.”
By January, students had to start converting their research into presentable projects. Roberto and Christopher opted to write and perform a play on the telephone’s invention. Joseph created an exhibit board on Henry Ford’s Model T, while Natalie and Paola’s exhibit board focused on the work of environmentalist Rachel Carson. Lastly, Brianne opted for a paper on the invention of the smallpox vaccination.
Students first competed in a Mock History Day competition on campus, with learning directors and teachers serving as judges. Joseph said of the event, “It was a great opportunity to support each other and see the outcome of each other’s hard work.” Brianne Betancourt took home first prize, while Joseph Avila garnered an Honorable mention. Due to health concerns, Students had to quickly retool their projects for virtual competition at the county level. Brianne was named the Fresno County History Day Champion in the Senior Division Paper Category, while Roberto and Christopher were Runners up in the Senior Division Performance Category. Against all odds, these students were moving on to the State History Day competition. At State, Brianne was named a top twenty finalist for the Championship prize, while Chris and Roberto’s script was featured in the Virtual showcase.
When asked about his experience with History Day, Roberto emphasized how he developed communication and teamwork skills through completing a partner project. Brianne said her favorite part was the freedom to choose any topic or event, allowing each student to select a topic that, “best fits you.” Chris highlighted how the research process helps you understand a topic, and “the story that comes with it is what history is all about.” As a first year program, these students certainly made history for Reedley High School and their story is an underdog tale worth remembering.