National History Day: A Call for Support

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Rob Lukens, Ph.D.
Chester County Women's Journal
Release Date: 
May 1, 2013

Please view the full article here.

FOR NEARLY 25 YEARS, the Chester County Historical Society (CCHS) has hosted an innovative program that has positively changed thousands of young lives—National History Day. 

National History Day is a year-round competition with 600,000 students participating across the United States. It begins at the regional level, with winning students advancing to state and national levels in College Park, Maryland. Middle and high school students compete in formats such as performances, films, websites, essays and exhibits that correspond to a national theme.

The program’s theme for 2013 is “Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, Events.” Supporting the theme, Hope Chamblee, a student at Springfield High School, conducted original research to write a brilliant first-place essay , “Opening Classroom Doors: P.L. 94-142 and the Educational Rights of All Disabled Children.” At J.R. Fugett Middle School, students Olivia Sarkisian and Anna Steinmetz placed first with their production of a riveting documentary, “The Perfect Steel Trap: John Brown at Harper’s Ferry.” 

CCHS coordinates regional efforts for Chester and Delaware Counties, offering behind-the-scenes tours of museum exhibits, outreach to classrooms, teacher training, research assistance and logistical coordination of an annual event with an average attendance of 1,500 people. 

This year, 22 area schools included National History Day in their curriculum and 20 schools sent representatives to the regional competition held by CCHS at Immaculata University on February 23. Eighty-nine winning students from Chester and Delaware Counties advanced to the state competition held May 3 and 4 in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. 

More than 100 volunteers serve as judges and assist with the competition. “It is one of the most fulfilling things I do all year,” writes Sally Denk Hoey, a National History Day judge for the last six years. “These students are amazing!” 

National History Day has a significant impact on the educational landscape of America. Based on a multi-year study by an independent research firm, participation increases test scores and performance in history, writing, reading, science and math. President Barack Obama awarded National History Day the prestigious National Humanities Medal in 2011. CCHS’s National History Day Coordinator Mary Galligan echoes accolades for the competition: “I have seen firsthand through my daughter’s growth, both academically and personally, the tremendous benefit to participating in the National History Day program.”

Taking National History Day Into the Future

As CCHS approaches the 25th anniversary of the program in 2014, please help ensure that the program continues and expands. Past supporters have included the Westtown-Goshen Rotary Foundation, the Exchange Club of West Chester, the Stewart Huston Charitable Trust, Bernhard F. Schlegel Post #134 of the American Legion, Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union, WalMart, and individual supporters. Businesses can also make Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) donations to CCHS in support of National History Day. 

The Historical Society (or CCHS) has yet to secure funding for 2014’s National History Day. Without it, the program will have to be scaled back significantly. Please help keep National History Day available to every local middle and high school student by becoming a sponsor. Your gift will make a huge difference in the life of a curious, young learner. 

For more information about National History Day, visit or To support the National History Day program, contact David Reinfeld,, 610.692.4800 x267.