Brother and sister win regional National History Day competition


The six columns in Columbia flying the flags at half staff. Photo used with permission from Kirsten Buchanan.

Abby Kempf

The National History Day state competition will take place at the University of Missouri-Columbia on April 30. 
At this year’s National History Day two RBHS students advanced to the next round: state. The competition requires students to explore an event from history in-depth and present their findings in one of many formats. The two winners are brother and sister junior Ji-Ho Lee and freshman Ji-Sung Lee.
“You can choose to do a documentary, exhibit, paper, website or performance and I did an exhibit. Since the theme was Exploration, Encounter and Exchange, I researched the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the relation between Japan and Korea,” Ji-Sung Lee said. “The marathon gold medalist was Korean, but because Korea was under Japanese rule at the time, he was forced to wear a Japanese flag. I mainly presented my exhibit on the encounter of the two countries and the exchange of all the cultures at the Games.”
The sponsor of the two students, EEE teacher Gwen Struchtemeyer, said she was thrilled with the results, especially because of the Lees’ relationship.
“I am proud of them. I loved reading Ji-Ho’s essay about the historic basketball game win of the Texas Western College Miners, who were an all black team, against the University of Kentucky Wildcats, who were an all white team in 1966,” Struchtemeyer said. “That event led to the integration of basketball teams and it raised people’s awareness that anyone of any color could play and be extraordinary. I had no idea about that and he points to that being a big event within the civil rights movement.”
The task is not a small one to undertake, both Struchtemeyer and Ji-Sung Lee said. It requires hours of research, compilation, synthesis and editing.
“The hardest part was trying to concise all the information into 500 words,” Ji-Sung Lee said. “Since there’s a word limit for the exhibit it was difficult to stay under the word limit while trying to get all the important information on the board.”
[quote cite=”Gwen Struchtemeyer”]I think the most interesting thing about National History Day is that it encourages students to explore a portion of history that might have been glossed over in class or not even mentioned at all.[/quote] But the rewards were far worth it, Struchtemeyer said. She loves to learn new things from her students work and appreciates the lessons they themselves must learn when creating their projects.
“I think the most interesting thing about National History Day is that it encourages students to explore a portion of history that might have been glossed over in class or not even mentioned at all. National History Day challenges students to find small, pivotal moments that were quite important or made people think differently about how relations were or how a situation was and explore those singular events in written form or in poster form,” Struchtemeyer said. “It encourages that exploration of history and curiosity for history that goes beyond a textbook.”
The younger of the Lees also appreciates what she has learned to do through the experience. She sees the real world applications as well and is excited to do something outside of worksheet, test and essay.
“It taught me how to do a lot of researching through books and going to the library and certain things that aren’t really taught in school,” Ji-Sung Lee said. “Depending on your category it’s not only a good experience but it also can teach you about a lot of new things.”
The Lees’ journey with National History Day isn’t over yet. Next they will advance to the state level.
“My next step is to receive the judges’ comments and from there I am going to take them into consideration and try to adjust my board to make it better for the next competition,” Ji-Sung Lee said. “I’m nervous for state because it’s a whole new level of competition although it’s cool to be able to looks at everyone else’s board, too. I’ve never been to the National level for National History Day so I don’t know what I would think if I made it that far.”
Have you ever participated in National History Day? What was your favorite part?