While a student at Avail Academy’s K-8 campus in Edina, Julianna Velgersdyk placed among the top three at this year’s National History Day competition. She took home second place in the junior paper category with her paper titled “Weeks v. Southern Bell: Breaking Discriminatory Employment Barriers for Women in the Workforce.”
The competition features a different theme every year that students must focus their project around. This year’s theme was “Breaking Barriers.” Students get an opportunity to progress through a regional round, a state round and the final national round.
This was Velgersdyk’s first year competing in the competition and she explains that her school hosts a round and requires all students to participate. If students chose, they are offered an opportunity to move on to the regional round, which is what she chose to do. “I decided to advance with my project because they said I have potential if I made more edits and continued on with my research."
“I really like court cases and the justice system,” Velgersdyk says. “I find that so fascinating, and I wanted to look at court cases and women’s rights.”
As she researched her topic, her teacher sent her a link to a website on Lorena Weeks. “Lorena Weeks has kind of a sassy, spunky personality,” says Velgersdyk. “I immediately knew that was the [topic] I wanted to do.”
Because Weeks is not a commonly known person, Velgersdyk had to intensify her sleuthing skills in order to find more information. “I really had to go deep into my research,” she says.
Velgersdyk had more time to work on her project during online distance learning this past spring. She says, “I was done with school before lunch every single day, so I had the rest of the afternoon to work on my project.”
This year, instead of having students attend a national event in Washington, D.C., organizers held the ceremony online. Velgersdyk says, “Virtually they made it work and they had some fun things.”
Velgersdyk says the experience teaches a lot about how to research something and provides an opportunity to become an expert on a topic. “Being a kid, all these people are always teaching you stuff,” she says. “But now you get to show people what you’ve learned.”
Her advice to students entering the History Day competition is to find a topic you truly care about so that it doesn’t become boring. She says, “Choose a topic that you’re really interested in and realize that you’re going to get frustrated sometimes, but you have to find what’s fun in it.”
To learn more about the National History Day competition, visit nhd.org.