Five from SMS move on to state level History Day competition

Three from Swain High move forward
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Swain Middle School (SMS) saw five of its students selected to advance to the state level of the National History Day competition during the regional contest held March 30 at Western Carolina University.

The students selected to represent SMS were eighth-graders Lexi Long, Taylor Ball, Kathryn Roland, Grace Schuler and Aiyana Toineeta.

More than half a million students participate in the National History Day contest each year, according to the organization’s website. Participants perform primary and secondary research on a historical topic related to a theme that changes each year. This year’s theme is “Triumph and Tragedy in History.”

Students can choose to display their work through an exhibit, paper, performance, documentary or website.

Lexi Long and Taylor Ball earned a first place finish for group exhibit with their project titled “Judson: The Town Time Forgot.” 

Their project description reads, “Judson is a lost town that now lives under the lake. In 1942 the TVA bought acres of land to build a dam on (known as Fontana Dam). This would be used to generate power to Oakridge to make bombs during World War II. Citizens of Judson were forced to leave their homes. The Road to Nowhere ties into this as well, being the place where new homes were supposed to be built, but construction was stopped in 2010.”

Ball said he and Long re-did their entire exhibit board before the regional competition. Now, to prepare for state, Long said she thinks they could probably take some of the pictures off of the board and add more text, while rewording some of the text they already have. She said they could also expand their research, something suggested by one of the judges.

The lost town is one that is near to both students’ hearts, as they had family members who lost homes when it was flooded. Ball said his grandfather was three days old when his family had to move.

Said Long, “For me, the thing about Judson that really means the most is my family was down there, and they lived down there, and I can’t ever imagine going through that.”

Grace Schuler won second place for her historical paper “Auschwitz: A Tragedy in the Past, a Triumph for the Future.”

“My historical paper is about Auschwitz,” Schuler stated in her project description, “the largest extermination camp that was under operation during World War II. It talks about the tragedies faced by the many prisoners in the camp and the triumph that they got out of it.”

Schuler was the only student to compete in the historical paper category at the local competition, and she said she felt more nervous at regionals knowing she was competing against eight other people in her category.

She said one of the judges asked her what surprised her about her research, and her answer was the cruelty targeted at the Jews and how people were killed based on their religion.

As for preparation for the next level of competition, Schuler noted, “I need to add more information about the actual people in the camp, and I need to tie why Auschwitz was important back into the theme for history day this year.”

Also taking home a second-place win was Aiyana Toineeta for individual documentary. The subject of her documentary was Alice Paul and the role she played in the women’s suffrage movement. It also explains the women’s suffrage movement and tells how it impacted history.

Toineeta said she is “a feminist about everything,” so during her research it was meaningful to her “seeing all these people taking power and doing something that means something to them.”

Kathryn Roland won third place at regionals in individual exhibit for her project “Loving Beyond Borders.”

She stated in her project description, “My project is about the triumphs and tragedies of the court case that truly let people love beyond the borders of race, Loving v. Virginia.”

She continued, “In my project, you will truly see the hatred that the Virginia court had towards the Lovings. But you will also see that all the Lovings wanted was love and marriage for their own.”

Roland said the most important thing to her about her project was “the right to love,” because that’s what the Lovings were fighting for, and they finally got it.

Local History Day organizer Amber Gilliam commented, “This year, many of our students worked hard to have great projects. They had amazing projects, and there were many great projects at the regional competition from the Western Region. 

“Everyone, even those who did not get to continue to the next level, worked hard and should be proud of what they have accomplished,” she continued. “There were many projects represented at regionals and I hope to see Swain Middle School represented at the national level this year.”

The state competition will be held Saturday, April 27 at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh.

Swain High places at History Day competition

Elijah Bassett competed in the senior paper division.  His paper, “British, Spanish, Powhatan, & Taino:  A Collision of Worlds,” is about the early contact between Europeans and Native Americans.  He placed third and will advance to the state competition.  

Madeline Lay and Ruby Dyer competed in the group exhibit. Their project, “From Chains to Cuffs: The Triumph and Tragedies of African Americans Quest for Equality.” Their project traces the political and social successes and obstacles faced by African Americans since the passage of the 13th amendment. They placed first in the region and will move on to the state competition.  

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