Twenty-two Nebraska City students earned top honors at Peru State College's 31st Annual District History Day Contest on Feb. 27 in Peru.
This year's contest theme was "Leadership and Legacy in History." About 300 students from area school districts participated in the competition, including: Lourdes Central Catholic School, Nebraska City Middle School and Nebraska City High School.
"It was exhilarating to see what topics the students had chosen to research - especially to see how they were able to make the correlation to this year's theme of 'Leadership and Legacy in History,'" Peru State history professor and contest Director Sara Crook said. "The topics were across all disciplines and centuries ranging from local leaders, such as 'Conducting the Orphan Train: Leadership & Legacy of Charles Loring Brace,' to iconic national and international leaders, such as Susan B. Anthony, Thurgood Marshall and Frederick the Great King of Prussia.
"It is always inspiring to see students take such a strong interest in studying history and making the argument for it relevance in today's world," Crook added.
History Day contestants presented their work in five different medias - paper, performance, documentary, exhibit or Web site. Students were able to chose their own topics and were separated into two divisions. The juniors comprised of sixth- through eighth-grade students and the seniors were made up of ninth- through 12th-grade students.
Peru's competition is the second largest in Nebraska, and the top four winners in each category can move on to compete in the statewide contest April 11 at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln. The winners of that contest will then be eligible to compete in the 2015 Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., June 14 through 18.
Lourdes Central eighth-grade English teacher and History Day advisor Roxann Penfield has had students compete in the national competition before.
Penfield said that three students competed at nationals in 2014 and one student competed there in 2013. She added that her students have earned top honors for at least five years.
"It's really an honor to have placed again this year," she said.
She said all of the eighth-grade students were required to participate in the competition for language arts class.  
"Overall, I think they did well. Quite a few of them placed in each category," Penfield said. "The kids worked really hard to do this and to make sure they had a quality, historical and accurate product."
Lourdes eighth-grade students who received top honors in the competition were:
Natalie Wright took third place in the Junior Individual Exhibit for "Fr. Flanagan a Voice for Children."
Andrew Aldana earned second place in the Junior Individual Documentary category for "Charles Drew: A Pioneer in Medicine."
Macey Allgood took home third-place in the Junior Individual Documentary category for "Ringing a BELL in History: The Sound of a Leader."
Logan Bakula took third place in the Junior Individual Historical Paper category for "The Mother of the Second Stage of Feminism: Betty Friedan's Advocacy on Women's Rights in the 1960s."
Piper Monson earned first place in the Junior Individual Performance category for "Mr. Gene Kelly: Who Could Ask for Anything More."
Chloe DuBois and Karinne Olson took home first place in the Junior Group Interpretative Web site category for "Once Upon a Time: A Story of a Fashion Revolutionist."
Anna Gigstad won first place in the Junior Individual Interpretative Web site category for "Antoine Laurent Lavoisier: The Father of Modern Chemistry."
Colter Fulton earned second place in the Junior Individual Interpretative Web site category for "Dr. Seuss: The Doctor of Literature."
Grant Draus won fourth place in the Junior Individual Interpretative Web site category for "Poland, Pierre, and Polonium - Marie Curie."
NCMS eighth-grade social studies teacher Kelly Schmidt, who was a History Day co-advisor with eighth-grade English teacher Shari Whitehead, said all of the eighth-grade students were also required to do a project and the best ones were chosen to then move on to the Peru competition.
Schmidt said students had been diligently working on their projects since the beginning of September either in class or after school.
"I thought they all did really well," she said. "They did a good job of thinking outside of the box. They could've used the Internet, books and all kinds of sources. I had kids who also did interviews with people too."
She said the students who will be moving on to state took the judges' critiques seriously and have been making adjustments to their projects in preparation for state.
The NCMS eighth-grade students who earned top honors at the competition were:
Elsa Michel took home fourth place in the Junior Individual Historical Paper category for "Animals in War."
Logan Hoover earned second place in the Junior Individual Performance category for "Adolf Hitler."
Fernando Dominguez, Angelica Stiles and Sarah Sullivan placed first in the Junior Group Performance category for "Helen Keller."
Trevor Kohrs, Keith Whitehead and Nick Zaroban earned fourth place in the Junior Group Interpretative Web site category for "Bill Gates."
Jared Robles took home third place in the Junior Individual Interpretative Web site category for "The Manhattan Project."
NCHS American history teacher and History Day advisor Will Jackson was amazed by the NCMS entries and is hopeful that the students will continue competing at the high-school level for the 2016 competition.
Jackson said there were 12 NCHS students who competed and three students received top honors. He added that this was the first time in a long time that NCHS has competed in the event.
"I thought that it went excellent," he said. "I was very impressed with the projects that got to go and I can't wait until next year."
Jackson made it a requirement for sophomore students in his class to do a project, but he opened it up to any student who wanted to compete.
Sophomore Jaycob Tharp earned second place in the Senior Individual Exhibit category for his project titled "The Legacy of the Moon Walker." Jackson said Tharp's project focused on the Apollo 11 mission, specifically on Commander Neil Armstrong.
"Jacob did a really good job of really crafting his exhibit," he said.
Sophomores Duncan Coe and Brennen Russell took home first place in the Senior Group Documentary category for their project titled "The Fast Food Mafia." Jackson said the duo's project focused on the legacy of fast-food restaurants.
"They worked really hard on it," he said. "They did really well."
The first-place winners in the senior division categories also received $500 "Tested for Excellence" tuition scholarships to Peru.
Special awards were also given to area students in a variety of categories. The Kregel Windmill Factory Museum, Nebraska City Museum Association, Nemaha Valley Museum, Mayhew Cabin, Peru Historical Foundation and the Missouri River Basin Lewis & Clark Visitors Center presented the special awards.
The theme for the 2016 National History Day competition will be "Migration and Movement in History: People, Places, Ideas," and Peru's District History Day competition will tentatively be Feb. 26, 2016.
For more information about National History Day, go to www.nationalhistoryday.org or contact Crook at scrook@peru.edu or at (402) 872-279.