Sunday, June 23, 2024

Royal students headed to National History Day contest

Staff Writer | May 6, 2024 1:30 AM

ROYAL CITY — Six students will represent Royal schools at the National History Day competition in Washington D.C. next month.

The six were among 33 students who participated in the state competition held in Kirkland on April 27, said Royal Middle School social studies teacher Emily Ovenell, who coordinated the students’ entries. The students who placed in the top two at state were eligible for nationals, she said.

“There were over like 500 competitors in total,” she said. “So placing in the top two is pretty incredible.”

The national competition will be held June 9-13, Ovenell said. About 3,000 students from all 50 states and overseas will compete, according to the National History Day website.

Royal High School sophomore Logan Piper and freshman Rebecca Carlson placed for the senior division, while seventh-graders Easton Sutor and Kellen Lawrence and eighth-graders Sarah Bergeson and Grace Soliz placed in the junior division.

For National History Day, the students select a particular moment in history and show how it affected events. Piper’s exhibit looked at the Boldt decision, the 1974 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that re-affirmed tribal fishing rights. Carlson did her display on the Polish Solidarity movement of the early 1980s, which was the first domino in a series of events that culminated in the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

Sutor and Lawrence did a team project on news broadcasting during the Vietnam War, while Bergeson and Soliz did a performance on the sinking of the Titanic.

Some other prizes were awarded at state as well, Ovenell said. Katie Piercy received the Chinese American History Award for her presentation on Vincent Chin, a Chinese American who was murdered in Michigan in 1982 by two white auto workers. The case is considered a turning point in Asian American civil rights and spurred stronger legislation against hate crimes.  

Lizzie Jenks and Lauren Wardenaar received the Women’s History Award for their presentation on the London Matchgirls Strike of 1888, in which workers in a match factory protested against unhealthy and unsafe working conditions. The strike resulted in a wave of labor organization in Britain and America. Bryson Piper received the Activism in History Award for his work on the book “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson, which ended the use of DDT and prompted stronger environmental regulation.

The students who qualified for nationals will take those same exhibits and performances to Washington, D.C. for nationals, Ovenell said, with a little tweaking.

Two Royal Middle School teachers, who are also the moms of two competitors, will accompany the students to the nation’s capital, Ovenall said.

“Teresa Piper is our seventh-grade science teacher, and Marnie Bergeson is our eighth-grade English teacher and actually the teacher who worked with our performance students,” Ovenell said. “So it’s very cool to get parents and teachers on one.”

Ovenell herself won’t be able to accompany the finalists, she said. However, she was named Washington State History Day Teacher of the Year for the junior division at the regional competition, which puts her in the running for the prestigious Patricia Behring Award, the winner of which will be announced at nationals.

It won’t all be competition, however. The students will have a chance to learn about some other historical events up close.

“Some of the things we got to see and that I'm sure they will go and see again this year are the National Archives, Arlington Cemetery, the Native American Museum, the Holocaust Museum,” she said. We try and squeeze in a really full week to give those kids as many experiences as we can in D.C.”

Joel Martin may be reached via email at

    Royal High School freshman Rebecca Carlson will take her examination of the Polish Solidarity movement, which was a major turning point in the Cold War, to the National History Day competition in Washington, D.C. in June.

    Royal Middle School seventh-graders Easton Sutor, left, and Kellen Lawrence qualified for the National History Day contest with their group project on media coverage of the Vietnam War.