NPA National History Day

Ella Downard and Joy Kim from Northland Preparatory Academy are heading to the National History Day championships.

In their first attempt at the National History Day contest, two students from Northland Preparatory Academy have made it all the way to the national challenge in College Park, Maryland. But they need a little help getting to the contest.

Seventh graders Joy Kim and Ella Downard won their school and state competitions for National History Day for their documentary on Malala Yousafzai. Yousafzai is a Pakistani girl and Nobel Peace Prize winner who has fought for the education rights for young women.

“We’re really excited because we didn’t think we could make it this far,” said Kim.

Now they’re trying to raise enough money to make it to College Park with their teacher Elysia Pohl. The girls need about $4,000 to go. They’ve set up a GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/NPA-National-History-Day. The contest runs from June 11-15.

According to its website, National History Day is a worldwide contest that encourages middle and high school students to do their own research on historical topics that interest them. More than half a million students around the world participate each year, and about 3,000 make it to the national challenge. Each year the students are given a theme and a choice of how to present their project: documentary, paper, performance, exhibit or website.

This is the first year that NPA has entered the contest Pohl said. She and another teacher, Laura Shafer, found out about it at a seminar and decided to see if any of their students would be interested. Pohl said they will definitely include the contest in next year’s lesson plans.

This year’s theme was on someone who has taken a stand. Kim and Downard said they chose Malala because she inspired them about how important education is, especially to those who don’t always have the opportunity to go to school.

“I heard about Malala in fifth grade,” Kim said. At the time, Kim said she really didn’t like doing her homework, but hearing about Malala and the girls around the world who don’t get to go to school put a different spin on things. It inspired Kim to focus on her schoolwork more.

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Downard said she had heard of Malala but didn’t know much about her until they started working on the project.

Kim and Downard thought doing a documentary on Malala would be the easiest way to go. It ended up being more work than they expected but they had a lot of help from friends. Downard’s father works for Northern Arizona University and his students taught them how to use the iMovie software to put the documentary together. The girls did all of their own research and all of the editing on the documentary. Two of the NAU students helping them had participated in the National History Day contest when they were younger and were able to give them tips on research and citing sources.

“It was fun to see all of the pictures come together,” Kim said.

Both girls said they were very surprised when their names were called as winners at the state level. Downard said after looking at all of the other projects out there she didn’t think they would win. Place maybe, but not win.

Kim and Downard both said they’re not expecting to win at the national level, but that just being able to go and compete while meeting new people is pretty cool. Downard is excited to see how other students did their projects. Kim said she’s hoping to get a pin from each of the 50 states — the students get state pins they can pass out to other students at the competition.

Joann Kim, Joy’s mother, said she was pleasantly surprised at the girls’ win.

“They worked really hard on this. We’re really thankful to the teachers,” she said.

“I think it will be a fantastic experience for them,” said Kristine Downard, Ella’s mother.

The reporter can be reached at sadams@azdailysun.com or (928)556-2253.


Education/Business Reporter

Suzanne writes about education and business. She covers the local school district, charter schools and Northern Arizona University. She also writes the Sunday business features.

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