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Michigan Students Honored at 2021 National History Day

Michigan students received special honors during the virtual 2021 National History Day contest on June 13-19, 2021. 

Michigan Students Honored at 2021 National History Day

2021 Michigan History Day Button


Written By: Historical Society of Michigan

COLLEGE PARK, Md.—Michigan students were among the thousands of participants from across the United States and several territories competing in the virtual 2021 National History Day contest, which took place June 13-19, 2021. Ten Michigan students received special honors at this year’s competition—including a first-place finish and one special prize.

“The History Day theme for 2021—Communication in History: The Key to Understanding—was fitting for the challenges faced by participants this year. Students had to communicate virtually with teachers, group members and research institutions for most of the year, especially in the fall when most schools were virtual,” said Amy Bradfield, state coordinator for Michigan History Day® (National History Day in Michigan). “I am grateful to the students and teachers who continued with the program despite the obstacles caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The dedication of the students to share history that matters to them is inspiring.”

Michigan History Day is operated by the nonprofit Historical Society of Michigan. 

Michigan students competing in the National History Day competition represented several communities, including Ann Arbor, Clinton Township, Fraser, Gobles, Kalamazoo, Mattawan, Midland, Milan, Montague, Plainwell, Portage, Redford, Richland, Rochester, Rochester Hills, Roseville, South Haven, St. Joseph, Traverse City, Troy, Twin Lake, Warren, Westland and Whitehall.

Georgia Edmonds of The Gagie School in Kalamazoo, sponsor Dr. Sandra Gagie, placed first in the nation for the Junior Division Individual Exhibit category with her entry, “The Book Women: Communicating Literacy and the Love for Books to Those Isolated by Poverty and the Appalachian Mountains.”

Elyse Heffner and Veronika Caughran of Traverse City East Middle School in Traverse City, sponsor Brent McCall, received the Junior Division of the George Washington Leadership in History Prize for their group exhibit, “Washington's Farewell Address.” The award is sponsored by the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon.

Lila Baliunas, Hannah Hysell, Josephine Marsh and Mary Riley of Lake Michigan Catholic Middle School in St. Joseph, sponsor Ginger Hysell, received the Junior Division Outstanding Affiliate Award, designating them as best-in-state, for their group performance entry, “Arts as Propaganda: Communism Meeting Democracy Through the 20th Century.” The students placed eighth in the nation for the Junior Division Group Performance category.

Emma Wilson of Troy High School in Troy, sponsor Michelle Slaviero, received the Senior Division Outstanding Affiliate Award, designating her as best-in-state, for her individual performance entry, “Rachel Carson: A Not So Silent Spring.” Wilson placed sixth in the nation for the Senior Division Individual Performance category.

Both projects in the Junior Division Individual Performance category were selected to participate in the National Women’s History Museum Performance Showcase. Only 20 projects were selected for inclusion on the National Women’s History Museum website from the 155 entries that applied for consideration. Ishwari Bhatt from The Gagie School in Kalamazoo was selected for her performance titled, “Kalpana Chawla: Communication in Space.” Bhatt was sponsored by Dr. Sandra Gagie.

Megan LeaTrea from Whitehall Middle School in Whitehall was selected for her performance titled, “The Key to Understanding Coded Communications: Elizebeth Smith Friedman Unlocks Enemy Secrets, Paving the Way for a Secure Nation.” LeaTrea was sponsored by Jan Klco. LeaTrea placed eighth in the nation for the Junior Division Individual Performance category.

Michigan History Day® is an affiliate of National History Day, which was established in 1974 and offers yearlong project-based learning that engages more than half a million middle and high school students around the world annually. History Day provides a fascinating opportunity to move beyond routine learning. Based on an annual theme, students choose to explore and research a local, national or international historical topic. Students then present their work in one of five categories: performances, exhibits, papers, websites and documentaries.

Lead sponsors of Michigan History Day 2021 are The Meijer Foundation, Bob Scripps Community Fund of the Scripps Howard Foundation, Sally Adler, Wilbur and Ruth Wright Charitable Foundation and Holland Area Historical Society.

The Historical Society of Michigan is the state’s oldest cultural organization, founded in 1828. A nongovernmental nonprofit, the Society focuses on publications, conferences, education, awards and recognition programming, and support for local history organizations to preserve and promote Michigan’s rich history.


Editor’s Note: For high-resolution photos of the winners, email