Tue, June 18, 2024

Alaska Students Excel at 2024 National History Day Contest

COLLEGE PARK, MD,  June 17, 2024 —  Thirty-nine Alaska students recently competed in the National History Day® National Contest, held in College Park, Maryland, from June 9–13, with many receiving national recognition for their research projects.

Four middle school students from Whitestone Training Center in Delta Junction – Amber Baranoski, Rene Greenleaf, Valerie Greenleaf and Brady Seeger – earned Second Place for the entire country in the Junior Group Performance Category for their project, “The Hello Girls: Turning Points in War Communication and Women’s Equality.” Their teachers are Lynn Chavez and Seth Baranoski. The students also earned a place in the National Museum of American History Performance Showcase, one of just 16 performance projects selected for the honor.

South Anchorage High School students Nicolas Laliberte and Maxim Esipov ranked in the top 10 and reached the finals round for their Senior Group Documentary on the fall of the Soviet Union entitled “The End of an Empire.” They were also awarded the Senior Division Outstanding Affiliate Entry recognition. Their teacher is Alissa Wardwell.

Fellow South Anchorage students Benjamin Gilbert, Jaxon Freeman and Kegan Sewall-Lau received National Honorable Mention for their documentary on the legacy of Bob Reeve, “The Glacier Pilot: Shaping Alaska’s Future.” Alissa Wardwell is their sponsoring teacher.

Rogers Park Elementary Students Kaia Washington, Myra Posey and William Larkin received the Junior Division Outstanding Affiliate Entry Award for their documentary “The Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964: Earthquake Safety Changed Forever.” Their teacher is Rachel McNeil.

Additionally, Julia Samuel and Olivia Yurkew of South Anchorage High School, under teacher Heather Beck, were selected to present their Senior Group Exhibit on “Women’s Inclusion in the Olympics” at the National Museum of American History Exhibit Showcase.

“We are so thrilled these Alaska students had the opportunity to share their unique perspectives on historical topics close to their hearts,” said Leanna Williams, Alaska History Day coordinator. “History Day projects are challenging, regardless of whether students opt to enter in a competition or not. Beyond preparing their research for the state contest, these students also worked hard to revise their projects for Nationals, in addition to fundraising for their travel. We’re so proud of all their hard work.”

The 2024 contest theme was Turning Points in History. Alaska students joined more than half a million students globally who completed historical research projects in one of five categories: documentary, exhibit, paper, performance or website. After completing a project, students competed in History Day contests at varying levels. The top students from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., U.S. territories, and international schools are invited to compete in the annual National Contest. This year, 2,849 competed at the contest.

“Participating in the National History Day National Contest in 2024 is a special honor,” said NHD Executive Director Dr. Cathy Gorn. “As the organization celebrates its 50th anniversary, the students at the National Contest witnessed history. They have shown an incredible level of critical thinking, analysis and research skills that will benefit them beyond their participation in NHD. I am proud of the students’ achievements this contest year and look forward to how they apply the skills they developed during their research to their future careers and lives.”

540 historians and education professionals served as judges for the students’ work. More than 100 students took home cash prizes between $250 and $2,000 for superior work in a particular category of judging.


About National History Day® (NHD): NHD is a non-profit organization based in College Park, Maryland, that seeks to improve the teaching and learning of history. The National History Day Contest was established in 1974 and currently engages more than half a million students every year in conducting original research on historical topics of interest. Students present their research as a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, or website. Projects compete first at the local and affiliate levels, where the top entries are invited to the National Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park. NHD is sponsored in part by the 400 Years of African American History Commission, The Better Angels Society, the Bezos Family Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Behring Global Educational Foundation, and the National Park Service. For more information, visit

About Alaska History Day: Alaska History Day is a program of the Alaska Historical Society. The program receives support from various groups and individuals, including University of Alaska Fairbanks and Anchorage History Departments, the Ted Stevens Foundation, National Park Service – Alaska Region, Alaska Humanities Forum and the Cook Inlet Historical Society. Originally founded in 1989, Alaska History Day has helped thousands of students learn research, writing, critical thinking and project management skills.