Vista del Lago History Day Teams Make It to State


Rayna Basa, Editor-In-Chief

On January 30, 2018, a number of teams from Vista del Lago High School made it to the state level of competition for National History Day. Every year, students from Vista’s AP U.S. History classes taught by Kelly Baquero are required to submit a project to compete at this event, “a non-profit education organization… that [engages] over half a million middle- and high-school students around the world annually in conducting original research on historical topics of interest.”

Students create projects on a chosen topic relating to the theme at hand, which are decided annually. “The yearly theme gives kids a focus and a way to tie their ideas together with meaning,” said Kelly Hillesland, the Integrated AP Language and Composition teacher at Vista. This year’s theme was ‘Conflict and Compromise in History’.”

While students are required to address an issue or idea based on the theme, participants must have a broad understanding of the overall topic. “When you read a textbook, it can be hard to imagine the events actually taking place. Diving into an event like we did in the project helped us understand the implications and the results of historical events more vividly,” said competitor Graham Jaeger, a junior at Vista.

Students are also required to apply their knowledge in both history and presenting skills in order to thoroughly discuss their projects, whether it be in the form of a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, or website. “I watch students think critically and then formulate an answer based on evidence. It is a profound, self-motivated learning experience. And after all that work, students are given feedback and critiqued. It is rewarding,” said Hillesland.

The process of preparing for such competitions is a tedious task. “History Day requires [everything] we ask students to do in terms of state standards in English and History: it asks students to pose questions based on their interests… to research, with a special emphasis on primary source documents… [and] to synthesize a huge amount of information into a coherent thesis,” said Hillesland.

Although more than 60 individual students from Vista’s Integrated class presented their projects to judges, not everyone was able to make it to the State level for a number of reasons. “What I think made our project stand out was our use of primary sources. We spent a lot of time on the National Archive’s website searching for first-hand documents and photos… but we sufficiently portrayed the subject of our project,” said Jaeger. “We emphasized the theme, which involves conflict and compromise in history, as much as possible in our project… [and] I think our attention to the theme heavily contributed to where we are now.”

Out of the hundreds of students that submitted a project, those from Vista include Om Ajudia, Sayak Datta, DJ Duncan, Nick Garcia, Gina Han, Graham Jaeger, Mai-Linh Nguyen, and Cade Sidhu just to name a few.

“Vista always does well because we are able to provide a framework in our academic environment that keeps students focused and moving forward. Many of our students move onto the state competition representing Sacramento County…” said Hillesland.