From left, Richards Middle School students Francesca Palazzolo, Alisha Gentz and Tiara Montgomery celebrate being national finalists for this year’s History Day competition.

From left, Richards Middle School students Francesca Palazzolo, Alisha Gentz and Tiara Montgomery celebrate being national finalists for this year’s History Day competition.

Photo provided by Tara Fugate, Fraser Public Schools


Fraser students to compete in national history competition

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published May 15, 2019

 From left, Richards Middle School students Natalie Watson, Courtney Brown, Molly McMillen, Juan Rebolledo and Gabby Tonn are History Day national finalists.

From left, Richards Middle School students Natalie Watson, Courtney Brown, Molly McMillen, Juan Rebolledo and Gabby Tonn are History Day national finalists.

Photo provided by Tara Fugate, Fraser Public Schools

 From left, Fraser High School students Carol Pearce, Gloria Arwood, Annika Piwko, Nolan Pieprzyk and Shannon McMenamin are History Day national finalists.

From left, Fraser High School students Carol Pearce, Gloria Arwood, Annika Piwko, Nolan Pieprzyk and Shannon McMenamin are History Day national finalists.

Photo provided by Tara Fugate, Fraser Public Schools

FRASER — A group of Fraser Public Schools students are representing the district on a national level thanks to their knowledge of history.

A total of 148 students in Michigan received top honors at the Michigan History Day state finals, held April 27 at Bay City Central High School in Bay City. Approximately 515 elementary, middle and high school students took part in the overall competition, which branches from the Historical Society of Michigan.

Tara Fugate, who teaches eighth grade U.S. history at Richards Middle School, explained that the annual project and research-based competition is for students in grades six through 12. NHD has affiliates in all 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, South Korea, China, South Asia and Central America.

This year’s them was “Triumph and Tragedy,” encompassing projects ranging from the Salem witch trials, to foreign policy post-World War II.

Students spend the first part of the school year conducting research, Fugate said, and later create a project specific to whatever yearly theme NHD decides.

“From there, (the students) continue to research and expand their bibliographies,” Fugate said. “For most of my students, this means searching for primary sources. They spent time researching in archives, interviewing historians and other experts, and traveling to museums, such as the Henry Ford Museum and the National Holocaust Museum.

“Once they have a good handle on their topic, they write a thesis statement and begin creating their project. Students can choose to write a paper, make a documentary, make a website, create an exhibit or plan a performance.”

She said she started the program at Richards five years ago as an option for advanced students who had little trouble excelling in the curriculum, or for those who did not need to remediate their skills, such as argument writing.

Fugate’s teachings are inspired by the Michigan Grade Level Content Expectation, which means she starts teaching her students with the background of the American Revolution, and then progresses through the 1880s.

Just one student participated in the first year. The following year, three students took part. Nine students participated the third year, with four of them making it to the national finals. Last year, 21 middle schoolers participated.

This year, a whopping 53 middle schoolers and high schoolers participated, with 33 of those students qualifying for the state competition. One of them was a seventh grader; 26 of them were eighth graders; and seven of them were ninth graders. Fugate attended the competition with them.

Eighth grader Alisha Gentz is a national finalist.

“I enjoy learning about history because it gives me knowledge of the past that I can apply to my future, allows me to compare what the world was like to what it is now, and understand how far we’ve come and the changes we’ve made in society,” Gentz said.

Eighth grader and national alternate Faith Aloia said NHD showed her that history can be a fun subject.

“You can almost experience what your topic was like for the person or people involved,” Aloia said. “It’s also fun to learn about topics that you may not learn about in a classroom, and really dive deep into what the topics are about.”

Taylor Frazier, an eighth grader and state finalist, said NHD has provided numerous students with a unique opportunity.

“It’s given us a chance to learn things about our family’s history, our country’s history and our world’s history,” Frazier said. “It’s helped me to fall in love with social studies even more, and I am so glad that I got to participate this year.”

The finalists from Richards Middle School and Fraser High School will compete in the national competition June 9-13 at the University of Maryland.