South Dakota students compete at National History Day virtual contest

BROOKINGS – Fifty-seven students from South Dakota had the experience of a lifetime competing the National History Day Virtual National Contest. Typically, the national contest takes place over the course of a week at the University of Maryland campus in College Park, Maryland, but this year the contest moved to a virtual setting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the competition that took place from June 14-20, students had their projects judged against over 3,000 other exhibitors from 58 affiliate programs (including every state, Washington D.C., American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and international schools in South Korea, South Asia, Central America and China). This year’s contest theme was “Breaking Barriers in History.” To replace in-person workshops and project showcases, students and teachers had the opportunity to participate in live and recorded opening and closing ceremonies, workshops, webinars and virtual project showcases at museums in Washington D.C.

The students who participated in the national contest were the top entries at the virtual state contest held during April at South Dakota State University in Brookings.  To participate in a National History Day contest, students create a historical research project using in and out of school time. National History Day projects are truly student lead: they pick their topic, if they want to work as an individual or in a group, and what kind of project they want to make (documentary, exhibit, paper, performance or website).

Over 300 historians and educational professionals were responsible for evaluating projects and selecting award winners and scholarships. This year, the following South Dakota students received the following awards and honors:

Sam Newitt and Marlena Olson from Edison Middle School in Sioux Falls placed second overall with their junior group documentary titled “Kathrine Switzer: How One Run Broke the Barrier of Discrimination in Women’s Athletics.”

Madison Lauck from Salem St. Mary’s in Salem was awarded the Junior Outstanding Affiliate Award for South Dakota. Her paper was titled “The Fight for Inclusion and Membership: Women Breaking Barriers in FFA.”

Billy Larson and Peyton Mollman from Harding County High School in Buffalo were awarded the Senior Outstanding Affiliate Award for South Dakota with their group exhibit “Stomping on the Barrier to Equal Rights.”

Full results for the contest can be found at

For more information on National History Day in South Dakota, visit or


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