“During high school, I started doing the papers, and I really enjoyed that,” Courtney said. “I enjoyed how I was able to put more of my heart and soul into the papers, even if that’s not exactly what the judges wanted.”
Each year, there is a different theme for the NHD competition, and each time Courtney chooses a subject to research.
“I choose my topic mainly by an area of interest,” Courtney said. “Some years, there was an obvious choice; for example, my seventh grade year the theme was Taking a Stand in History, I chose was the first topic I thought of, which was Joseph Smith: Taking a Stand for Religious Freedom. Other years, it was just a topic I was interested in and had a real passion for or I didn’t feel got enough attention in history class.”
Courtney participated in the NHD competition this year as a senior, making it her last time. She found her experience to be unique from all the others.
“This year was a tad different because we were going back to doing it in person after COVID,” Courtney said. “This year, I chose to do my paper on United Airlines Flight 93. I advanced to regionals, where I placed second, so I got to go on to state. This year I finally got to go in person, and that was an incredible experience, even though I did not place or win a special award.”
Though all of Courtney’s projects are meaningful to her, there are some that stand out more than the others.
“The two projects that are most special are the ones I did on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and Flight 93,” Courtney said. “For the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising project, I got to email my favorite author for sources. And I also got to make about twenty-seven different versions of that one, and that’s probably an under exaggeration. Writing the Flight 93 paper was a very emotional experience because I couldn’t look at any sources without crying, but it was very rewarding to be able to figure out how to reconstruct that story for my project.”
Watching Courtney participate in the history fair competition has been meaningful for her mother, Miriam Lamb, as well.
“I have learned a lot from Courtney’s participation in NHD over the years,” Lamb said. “My favorite project of hers was her study of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. I had never heard of this before, and it was fascinating to learn about people who resisted the Nazis during World War II.”
Lisa Mouton, the social studies and world languages coordinator, has helped Courtney throughout her participation in NHD.
“It has been a delight working with Courtney over the years,” Mouton said. “She is very dedicated and I appreciate that I can rely on her to get the job done. Courtney has a very engaging writing style and is very committed to her research and creating her final project.”
Competing in NHD for so many years has helped Courtney discover her strengths, enabling her to participate well.
“I would say my greatest strength is my passion,” Courtney said. “From talking to other kids who have participated in NHD over the years, it seemed like one of the ways that you could always tell who would win and who would not was how much passion they had about it. There were some kids who couldn’t tell you what their topic or category was minutes before their interview. Those kids typically didn’t do as well as the ones who would get excited telling you about their projects.”
Even with her passion, some aspects of NHD still proved a challenge for Courtney.
“The hardest part of doing NHD is being able to balance that with the other things I have to do,” Courtney said. “When I really get into my NHD project, I don’t want to do anything else and that can be an issue when I have a history IA due, or an English HL essay, or an EE, so it’s really just finding that balance.”
Despite these challenges, Mouton has noticed the remarkable progress Courtney has made in her research.
“I first worked with Courtney through the District History Fair when she was a middle school student,” Mouton said. “Over the years I have seen the quality of her work, depth of her research, and confidence before the judges improve.”
Participating in NHD has helped Courtney learn and improve important skills while providing unique opportunities.
“I’ve definitely learned to have more confidence in my writing skills,” Courtney said. “Even though my writing style is not the most formal or exactly what you’d expect of a history paper, I’ve learned to be more confident in my writing. I enjoyed being able to find something I was passionate about and learn about it and have an excuse to work on it instead of just wasting time down another rabbit hole.”
History can help people gain a perspective on life, especially when learned through an interactive way.
“I think it is important to learn history,” Lamb said. “Learning about the past gives us an understanding of how we came to the present and can help us prepare better for the future. Any time students can work toward something, like a history fair, that provides motivation.”
While knowing history is important, it can be difficult to apply the lessons learned. NHD helps students make history more personal.
“Learning about the past is only the first step in the process,” Mouton said. “We also have to learn from it, and from the historical process itself. NHD students engage in the process of historical inquiry as they research, but making their project is how they demonstrate their learning and draw conclusions. History, in all of its messiness and incompleteness, can provide us great insight into ourselves as individuals and communities. When we are truly open to learning history and engaging in the historical process, it can help us challenge our assumptions about the past, make us less judgmental in the present, and more open to positive growth in the future.”
Since Courtney is a senior, this was the last year she was able to participate in the NHD competition. However, she has plans to continue writing and learning about history into the future.
“I want to become an author and write, but not historical fiction, or at least not yet,” Courtney said. “Right now I’m working on a Young Adult Sci-Fi novel, but I still want to keep reading and studying history on my own.”
Courtney has enjoyed the experiences NHD has given her and encourages others to participate as well.
“I would advise others to follow their passion and not to be worried if their interests are not the most popular,” Courtney said. “I’d also advise people to find ways to love their work and be confident in that.”