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Nashua-Plainfield brings home another National History Day title

Nashua-Plainfield brings home another National History Day title
Nashua-Plainfield High School students Ava Kirk and Elexa O’Neill, who will be juniors this fall, pose for a picture after winning a national championship for their group website at the National History Day contest . Photo courtesy Suzy Turner

Kirk, O’Neill win top honor; Sinnwell takes third; two middle school students are finalists

By Bob Fenske, Of the Reporter

Nashua-Plainfield’s National History Day program added to its legacy recently with a national championship and two more top-10 finishes at the national contest that was held in suburban Washington, D.C.

Elexa O’Neill and Ava Kirk claimed the national title in the senior division for their group website about a photographer who helped focus American’s attention on the issue of child labor in the early 1900s, while Caleb Sinnwell claimed a medal for the fourth straight year with his individual website recounting the 1980s farm crisis.

Nashua-Plainfield brings home another National History Day title
Nashua-Plainfield’s Caleb Sinnwell poses for a photo after becoming a rare four-time medalist at the National History Day contest. Photo courtesy Suzy Turner

And two soon-to-be eighth-graders – Emillie O’Neill and Mia Schmitt – made the finals in the junior website division for a top-10 finish.

“I’m beyond proud of all of our kids who competed,” said National History Day advisor Suzy Turner. “To come home with a national champion, a third-place finish and a finalist, that’s really just icing on the cake. They’ve put countless hours into their projects, but they also represented our school so well during the entire week we were out here.”

O’Neill’s and Kirk’s category was the final one announced at the awards ceremony.

“They had no idea until their names were called if they were just a finalist or a national champion,” Turner said. “To say they were excited would be an understatement. And they should be. It’s a huge accomplishment.”

Their website, titled “Point, Click, Shoot: Lewis Hine’s Photographs Create a Turning Point for Child Labor,” became Nashua-Plainfield’s third national championship project, joining individual websites put together by Sinnwell in 2021 and 2022 to claim top prizes at the contest.

“It was very emotional to say the least,” Turner said. “We took pictures and Elexa was crying in most of them and I finally asked her why she was crying? ‘I’m so happy I can’t stop.’ Again, like all our kids, they’ve poured their hearts and souls into this.”

Sinnwell’s website, titled “A Devastating Decade of Dying Dreams: How the 1980s Farm Crisis Changed Rural America,” took third-place, and Turner praised the soon-to-be senior.

“I don’t know if anyone who isn’t part of History Day can really realize how hard it is to be a top-three finisher for four straight years,” she said. “It’s a monumental accomplishment.”

The 2024 contest marked only the second time in school history that Nashua-Plainfield brought home two top-three awards. The first came in 2018 when Morgan Kapping’s individual exhibit and a group website put together by Caleb Lines, Abby Poppe, Faith Carpenter and Jayne Levi finished third in their respective divisions.

In National History Day, students first compete at a district contest and the top two finishers in each division move on to a state contest, where the top two finishers earn trips to the national contest that is held each year on the University of Maryland campus in Landover.

Nashua-Plainfield had the most qualifiers from Iowa as 12 students took seven projects to the national contest.

Titus Cerwinske competed in senior individual performance; Paige Franzen, Kadence Huck and Cal Levi and Jean Peterson and Serena Gallmeyer competed in senior group documentary; and Jackson Mehmen competed in individual website.

“Just making nationals is a huge deal,” Turner said Thursday afternoon. “There’s always a little sadness, but there shouldn’t be. It was a really good day for NHD at Nashua-Plainfield, but I would be saying no matter what happened earlier today.”

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