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Three Newark Charter
High School students who participated in the National History Day in Delaware
2022 competition were selected to represent the state at the national
competition. The Vietnam War: How the Debate Around Drug Abuse in the
Military Lives On is a visual presentation and exhibit by Samira Morgan, Abigail Dorrell and Edris
Three local Delaware high school students had the opportunity to share a slice of history on the national stage after being chosen to represent the State of Delaware during this spring's National History Day (NHD) in Delaware competition, an event sponsored by the University of Delaware's Department of History.
The State of Delaware held its NHD presentations and evaluations at Newark High School on April 23. The Senior Division American History Award-winning exhibit, The Vietnam War: How the Debate Around Drug Abuse in the Military Lives On, was presented by Newark Charter High School's Samira Morgan, Abigail Dorrell and Edris Kalibala.
National History Day, a non-profit organization that operates an annual project-based contest for students in 6-12th grade, hosts three rounds of competition at the regional, state and national levels. The UD Department of History sponsors annual state event and funds a number of its awards, but also contributes to the event in several other ways.
“For years, we've been sending faculty members, as well as graduate and undergraduate students training to be K-12 teachers, to local schools to help students get ready for National History Day," said Darryl Flaherty, an associate professor in UD's history department and a judge at NHD's Delaware State Contest.
Each year, the NHD competition frames students' research within a historical theme, with the theme of the 2021-2022 competition titled Debate & Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences. To compete, Morgan, Dorrell and Kalibala were challenged to create an exhibit, defined by NHD as both a visual representation of the group's research and an interpretation of the team's topic significance in history.
Flaherty was one of the judges that made the decision to send Morgan, Dorrell and Kalibala to nationals. According to him, what set the team apart from its competition was “their questioning and research process." To Flaherty, the team's exhibit moved through more challenging terrain than most—specifically, the broader scope of opioid addiction and drug abuse in U.S. history.
The team's findings were based on the oral histories of family members and contextualization in the broader history of drug use and abuse in warfare. According to Morgan, the team began to research the beginnings of the United States' opioid crisis, which led them to explore opioid abuse during the Vietnam War. “Learning about history means to us that we, as an American people, can learn from our mistakes," said Morgan." If we study those past mistakes, we could engineer a way to never let them reoccur."
To Flaherty, Morgan and her group's exhibit accomplished the goal of the competition: connecting students to the past to enable them to be more curious about history. “To understand the world we live in, you have to understand where it came from," said Flaherty.
“This project increased our research skills and shaped us to be better students, as well, because we realized the importance of meeting deadlines," said Morgan. Joined by her teammates, Morgan's exhibit showcased at the National History Day 2022 National Contest, which was held virtually from June 12 to 18.
When asked what her advice would be for those interested in the field of history, Morgan added, “Never stop being creative and utilizing all the resources you can get your hands on."
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History Day (NHD) in Delaware is a statewide, year-long interdisciplinary program focused on historical research, interpretation, and creative expression for students in grades 6-12. It is organized, managed and hosted by the Delaware Historical Society in Wilmington.
“History is really the combination of engagement with the past and telling stories about the past that have meaning to that person telling the story. It's constantly reconstructed and made relevant in the present," said Flaherty. For him, that's what events like National History Day (in Delaware and nationally) are all about. “These students are all coming together and engaging with these different topics, and making it relevant for them and relevant in their present."
The UD Department of History empowers students to grapple with the complexities of the present by equipping them with a deeper understanding of the past. Within the department, students work closely with distinguished scholars and mentors whose areas of expertise span the globe. The department is also home to the popular UD Museum Studies Program, which engages with local museums and exhibits to provide research and learning opportunities for students interested in public history.
Article by Gina Cosenza