UMATILLA COUNTY — Two local students earned top honors at the National History Day virtual conference, presenting projects regarding the nation’s history.
The National Museum of American History honored McKenzie Rose of Echo for her project, while Helix’s MayaBella Texidor earned the Outstanding Affiliate Award for her documentary.
Rose and Texidor were part of the half a million students who prepped for the National History Day contest, a program where students conduct original research on a historical topic and present it to judges.
An experienced historian
For Rose, the project was no new trek; this was the Echo High School juniors’ fifth time taking part in NHD and her fourth time attending nationals. Rose’s first appearance at nationals was in the sixth grade. While other works have come naturally to her, this year’s project idea did not.
“Honestly, I just started looking up historical events on the internet and kept coming across the Trent Affair,” Rose said.
The Trent Affair — an American Civil War conflict that nearly saw the British side with Confederate soldiers after a naval dispute — fit the project’s theme well, and Rose decided to go with it.
A new documentarian
Texidor had never participated in NHD. She had never even made a documentary. As part of a required history class she took at Griswold High School, she had to make a documentary as an assignment.
After initially being interested in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Texidor decided to narrow the scope and present on the Executive Committee of the National Security Council meetings that occurred during the crisis.
While only four of the 10 students in the class finished the presentations, Texidor pushed through, learning the software the week before and turning in the project on time. Though she got it in, Texidor admitted she did fall a bit behind at points.
“There was a lot of procrastination involved with this project trying to find information because it was way harder than I thought it would be,” Texidor said.
Rose found newspaper clippings from 1861 and memoirs containing firsthand information about the Trent Affair. She would stay up until 11 p.m. working, missing time with friends.
“Often I would wonder if it was really worth all the over-scheduling and stress to compete,” Rose said.
Texidor struggled to find sources on the EXCOMM council. Because President John F. Kennedy’s council regarding the Missile Crisis was secretive, there weren’t many around to talk about it.
“Finding someone to interview about EXCOMM was almost impossible.” Texidor said, “I reached out to a lot of people trying to discuss the crisis with them but almost no one responded.”
Eventually, Texidor contacted local Bonnie Harper, and the two talked about Harper’s crisis experience as a teenager. They compared the crisis to the Russian-Ukraine conflict, an element Texidor used in her project.
National History Day
After all of their hard work, the two sent their projects off to the national competition. NHD was online due to the pandemic, with three full days of activities. Neither one was present.
While Texidor was on a family vacation, Rose was in Washington, D.C., for a school trip — the same city she would normally be for the in-person festivities.
Neither may have been there, but both projects received rave reviews. One judge said of Texidor’s work, “that this documentary was your first attempt at video-making is astonishing to me. I sincerely hope it won’t be your last.”
Meanwhile, Rose’s project earned a spot in the Smithsonian Learning Lab’s virtual showcase.
Despite her back-to-back honors, Rose is unsure if she will return for competitions next year. With so many other activities, the soon-to-be-senior knows that her schedule won’t get any lighter.
Even if her future is doubtful, Rose has discovered a new passion. She writes history pieces for the Hermiston Herald.
“History is a love of mine,” Rose said, “We can learn so much from the past, and it’s just downright fascinating at times.”
Texidor may have taken the class as a requirement for school, but she, too, developed a love for the process.
“Being able to gather and process historical information, interviewing people and working with advanced software are all very beneficial skills,” Texidor said, “NHD is hard but it’s worth it.”
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