University High School With Most NHD Winners in Orange County

Caitlyn Kim, Staff Writer 

The UHS National History Day Club (NHD) produced the most champions out of all of the participating high schools in Orange County, with 17 winners at the annual NHD-OC contest.

Awards were given to Neha Bhardwaj and James Koga for the Individual Website category; Alyssa Tang for the Group Website category; Sol Choi, Grace Jin, and Spiro Sun for the Individual Exhibit category; Zoie Verghese, Joyce Shi, Allison Yue, and Christina Yue for the Group Exhibit category; Emily Zhang, Henry Ding, Robert Ni, Annika Thiim, and Madeline Lalonde for the Group Documentary category; and Kayla Cho and Amerdeep Passananti for the Individual Historical Paper category, with the Chuck Staneart Historical Paper Award going to Passananti as well.

UHS NHD is a club on campus that is a part of the greater National History Day program, in which participants research a chosen historical topic and align it with the theme. This year’s theme was “Breaking Barriers in History”. 

“We have seen a steady increase in champions from last year… Uni’s NHD Club has more champions in NHD-OC than any other Orange County High School, essentially placing first in the entire county”, Passananti, President of UHS NHD Club said.

The NHD-OC competition was held virtually this year as a safety precaution to the growing COVID-19 pandemic. 

In an announcement to NHD participants given on March 12, Associate Superintendent of Educational Services at the Orange County Department of Education, Dr. Christine Olmstead, announced that the contest would be held virtually, “to mitigate exposure to the spread of viruses, including COVID-19”. 

The virtual process brought some changes to the typical NHD-OC contest. Participants were given a five day extension, and interviews were not held as a part of the contest for this year.

“The NHD-OC competition is typically held over two days where students from all over Orange County get to showcase their projects to each other and be interviewed by our judges”, Passananti said.

Some participants were apprehensive towards the changes but later found positive aspects to the situation.

“The new virtual process at first seemed daunting because we were worried the judges wouldn’t understand our ideas behind the project because there were no face to face interviews”, Verghese said. “We had to adjust by making our paper clearer – however it allowed us to focus more on the aesthetics and research of the project rather than the interview process.”

“This year was the most unusual NHD experience for me but I am thankful that amidst the pandemic, the coordinators made it a priority to proceed with the competition virtually.” Tang said.

Even through this unusual year, participants in UHS NHD value the skills and experience that they gain throughout this process.

“NHD teaches me how to research well and in-depth, a skill I’ll retain for life.” Koga said.