National History Day judges Leah Huesing (left) and Ena Selimovic

National History Day judges Leah Huesing (left) and Ena Selimovic look over submissions for the district competition. (Photo by August Jennewein)

A spy ring created by order of Gen. George Washington, a ghost town in the middle of Missouri’s largest metropolitan region and a 19th century woman accused of being an axe murder have something in common. They were all subjects of award-winning research work presented by St. Louis-area middle and high school students last week for National History Day at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. This year’s theme was “Rights and Responsibilities in History.”

Peter Acsay, assistant teaching professor of history at UMSL, serves as the district coordinator for Region 5 in Missouri. The district competition attracted 181 entries from 227 students in a broad range of categories. Judges included UMSL students, alumni and faculty members. Leah Huesing, a teaching assistant in the Department of History at UMSL, helped judge websites for the competition.

“I was amazed at the skill level I saw in the precollegiate students,” she said. “I am thrilled to see such passionate historical research being done by young students.”

In addition to websites, the middle and high school students create exhibits, documentaries, performances and papers in junior- and senior-level divisions. The top three entries in each category advance to the state contest on April 26 at the University of Missouri–Columbia. Missouri finalists will advance to the national competition held in June at the University of Maryland–College Park, just outside of Washington, D.C.

UMSL student Ena Selimovic helped judge Junior Division papers for the district competition. Like Huesing, she was impressed by the entries.

“There’s an excess of bad press about this generation – they don’t read, they’re not interested, they can’t think for themselves, they’re reliant on technology, so on and so on,” Selimovic said, adding that the opposite was mostly true with the district participants. “They were interested, excited, eloquent; they cared about their work and how it would be received.”

Click here to view a complete list of district winners.

The UMSL Experience

Ryan Heinz

Ryan Heinz