‘HIPSTER’ Team Reaches Finals in History Day

Two groups move on to state-level competition.


Amanda Rooker

Historical website creators Joseph Casuga, Addison Simis, Madison Kelly, Patrisha Atayde, and Brianna Rodriguez at OC History Day on Saturday, March 12.

Ten sophomores attended Orange County History day on Saturday March 12, seven of them advanced as finalists in the competition and two groups were selected to move on to California History Day.

William Kennedy’s individual website, Jonas Salk: Eradicating Polio, went head-to-head against projects from Irvine High School and University High School. He is a runner-up.

“I was shocked when I first heard I was chosen to be in the competition, so you can imagine my reaction when I found out I was a finalist. I really didn’t believe my ears,” Kennedy said.

Advancing as finalists and moving on to state-level competition are Joseph Casuga, Madison Kelly, and Addison Simis with their group website, The Apollo Program: Space Race to Detente. The project traced the Apollo program from its Cold War origins to the eventual cooperation with the Soviets in the Apollo-Soyuz orbital docking in 1975.

“I like working with my team and we are very happy with how our project turned out,” said Kelly.

“It provided me with a totally new experience, and I got to see and meet new people who were doing the same topic as I was,” said Simis. “I liked seeing the other competitors, too.”

Kailynn Martinez, Cadlynn Viter, and Rachel Mahshi also advanced to state competition in the group performance category. They creatively incorporated dance and dialogue into their presentation and were  selected as finalists for their project entitled Martha Graham: Exploring Modern Dance.

“We each were working on the same topic separately but the idea of doing a dance brought us together and we became friends,” said Viter to the judges during the interview after the performance.

The theme of this year’s National History Day competition was “exploration, encounter and exchange in history.”

The team from SJHHS was drawn from Mr. Kaiser’s world history classes, who worked on the project in first semester. From there, former state champion in performance and History Day Club President Amanda Rooker selected likely winners.

“I started the club because I knew that Nation History Day was impactful and I wanted to give more opportunity to other students,” said Rooker.

The club applied for and received a $500 grant from the Orange County Department of Education to fund the team’s entry fees. They called the grant H.I.P.S.T.E.R, which stands for: Historical Inquiry Prepares Students, Technology Engages with Results.

“This is education, right? So you need a good acronym to get a grant,” Kaiser said.

The goal of the grant was to involve non-AP students in History Day to complete a project aligned with the NHD theme, common core, and 21st Century standards as well as sponsor as many as possible at the county competition.

While the competition has categories for papers, exhibits, and documentaries, the students from SJHHS mainly worked with websites.

“That’s because we had access to Chromebooks in the classroom,” according to Kaiser.

The exception was the performance group who applied their first semester research to create a performance on modern dance innovator Martha Graham. Kailynn and Cadlynn are involved in the dance program at SJHHS. Along with Cadlynn Viter, they then created a script and added choreography and blocking, also organizing and creating props and costumes.

“It is incredible that Mr. Kaiser’s world history students had the opportunity to participate in this competition. It requires a lot of effort, but I have seen it inspire a passion for history while also preparing students with skills they will be expected to know in college,” said Rooker.

She hopes that the students that competed in the county competition will keep the club going after she leaves next year and that other teachers at SJHHS might want to try it with their students.