Reitzel competes in National History Day in Washington

Emma Rieitzel, then an eighth grader, competed locally and at the state level to earn a berth at the National History Day competition, held in Washington, D.C, in mid June.

Emma Reitzel won first place in her category in the National History Day (NHD) Region 3 Competition on March 10. This qualified her to compete in the state competition in Brookings, April 10, where she took second place. This qualified her to compete at the national contest in Maryland, June 9-13.

“I first started working on my history project a couple of weeks after school started my eighth grade year,” said Reitzel. She chose her Individual Documentary topic with the help of her history teacher, Taylor Hamblin. “The theme of my history project was that women can do things just like men can do.”

“This year’s contest theme was ‘Triumph and Tragedy in History’,” said Sarah Jacobs, National History Day in South Dakota affiliate coordinator. “Students create a historical research project using in-and-out of school time. Projects are student lead: they pick their topic, and what kind of project they want to make — documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, or website.”

“I chose my topic because I was interested in women’s history, specifically women’s suffrage,” said Reitzel. “As I was looking online about women’s suffrage, I came across the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and conducted my research from there. My documentary was on Temperance — not drinking, prohibition. I was really doing my project on women working together for a common cause. I decided to make a documentary for my project because that was what I thought would best show my work.”

At the local competition, the two judges awarded Reitzel first place, “giving me the opportunity to participate in the state competition at South Dakota State University in Brookings,” said Reitzel. “I didn’t really think that I would get first place, but I did, and after that I was really proud of myself.”

The next judging stage was April 10.

Though the in-person event was canceled due to a snowstorm that shut down the entire state, competition was done via virtual judging. “I received second place in my category, giving me the opportunity to participate in the national competition in College Park, Maryland. I was surprised. I worked really hard at getting there,” said Reitzel.

“At the welcoming ceremony, I got to meet kids from other states who were participating in the NHD competition. We traded buttons. Before I left, I got state buttons/pins. Every state had them. I got 40 different states and one from Puerto Rico.”

National judging was done in the Arts and Sociology building on the University of Maryland,College Park Campus. Reitzel competed against 101 other junior-level individual documentaries. Each faced three judges.

Reitzel was assisted in trip costs by the AAUW (American Association of University Women), Zonta Club International of Pierre/Fort Pierre, the United Way Youth Booster Program, friends, even acquaintances, and her family. “Part of our family vacation was my daughter competing in the National History Day event at the University of Maryland,” said Reitzel’s father Matthew.

“Fifty-one students from the state of South Dakota represented our state at the 45th annual National History Day Contest in Washington D.C,” said Jacobs. “Students had their projects judged against over 3,000 other exhibitors from 57 affiliate programs including every state, Washington D.C., American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and international schools in South Korea, South Asia, and China. When students weren’t competing, they toured the Capitol building, meet congressional delegates, went on behind-the-scenes tours at museums, visited the monuments, and participated in workshops.” Reitzel even visited with senators and representative at the Capital.

“It was a pretty fast trip to go on. It was my first airplane flight; it was pretty good. I also went to the National Mall, walked about 11 miles the whole day. The whole thing was a good experience,” said Reitzel.

“I thought that history was pretty fun last year, and I think history can be fun,” said Reitzel. “This year, I’ll be focusing on what I want to do as a job in the future. I don’t see history as a part of that. Maybe medical. But I learned a lot from this.”

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