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Students from Staples High School and Bedford and Coleytown Middle Schools won awards for a total of nine projects at the 2024 Connecticut History Day (CHD) held on May 4 at Central Connecticut State University. Competing for the opportunity to advance to the national competition, dozens of Westport students submitted entries that focused on this year’s theme, Turning Points in History.

A program of the Connecticut Democracy Center, CHD is part of National History Day which is an ongoing program that engages thousands of middle- and high-school students in historical research, interpretation and creative expression through project-based learning. It seeks to bring students, teachers, museums, and scholars together to support young people as they engage in history. 

Students whose projects placed first or second in their category at CHD move on to the National History Day competition to be held at the University of Maryland, College Park, on June 9-13. Westport students who placed at CHD include:

Uma Choudhury, Zara Saliba, and Caroline Banks (Staples High School) who won first place for their submission to the senior group exhibit category, “A Turning Point in Culture: The Immoral Origin and Immortal Legacy of HeLa Cells.”

Julien McMahon (Staples High School) who won first place in the senior individual website category with the entry, “The Shot that Echoed Across the World: The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.”

Chloe Jordan and Sienna Wearsch (Staples High School) who took second place in the category, senior group performance, with “Beyond the Boundaries of the Human and Feminist World.” 

Zayd Hemdan, Lev Piterbarg, and Oliver Sunderji (Bedford Middle School) took first place in the junior group documentary with their submission, “Harlem’s Golden Age: Revolution and Rebirth.”

Third place in the same category went to Alina Knapp, Quinn Danbeck and Julia Riley (Bedford Middle School) with their submission, “The Impact of Barbie.”

Liam Harrison (Bedford Middle School) won second place for, “The Wonders and Woes of a Turning Point: The Basilic Cannon’s Blast into Multiculturalism”, in the Junior Individual Performance category.

Alex Sheefel (Coleytown Middle School) placed second in the junior individual exhibit for “Nunca Mas, Grandmothers of Change.”

Ethan Maxwell Valencia (Coleytown Middle School) won third place in the junior individual website category for, “The Transistor: One Discovery Changed the World Forever.”

The special recognition of Outstanding Entry in World History – Senior Division was bestowed on Kevin Cano and Will Enquist (Staples High School) for their project, “The Yalta Conference: How a Secret Meeting Changed the Fate of the Post-War World.”

The students who have advanced to the national competition were mentored by teachers Nell-Ayn Lynch, Staples High School; Caroline Davis and Gabrielle Tomas, Bedford Middle School; and Steve Cerny, Coleytown Middle School.

“We are so proud of students across Staples, Bedford and Coleytown who engaged in historical research and inquiry through this program,” said Dr. Lauren Francese, Social Studies Coordinator, Westport Public Schools. “Their participation and shared success are a testament to their curiosity and the skills they’ve developed in social studies classrooms to think critically about historical topics and enduring themes.”

Students Julia Riley, Alina Knapp, Quinn Danbeck, Lev Piterbarg, Oliver Sunderji, Zayd Hemdan pose outside
Students Zayd Hemdan, Oliver Sunderji, Lev Piterbarg pose in front of the Connecticut History Day sign