Opening Ceremonies at McKeldin Mall:
Every year students gather on the expansive lawn to furiously trade buttons, meet kids from all over America, Europe, Guam (Current Rock Stars) and American Soma. This year there was even representation from Shanghai China!
The New York contingent gathered early to stake out a great spot for viewing in front of the McKeldin Library. Students were welcomed with brightly colored bags stuffed with extra NYSHD t-shirts, buttons and paperwork for the week.
The buttons and shirts are really ramped up this year and Wisconsin was my favorite. It is black and features a Pirate Cow.
The ceremony opened with the pocket full of Dynamite that is Dr Cathy Gorn. She whooped up the crowd with her traditional welcoming of the 50 states. We were then treated to a short biographical film about Kenneth E Behring whom the National Contest is now named for, This year he has given over 2 million dollars to the contest. There are many feelings about his involvement but what can be said for sure that his generous infusion of cash has resulted in the saving of state programs all over the country.
The real show began when Megan Felt a history day Alum took the stage to demonstrate the power of the National History Day program. As a freshman in High school she and classmates began an amazing odyssey that helped to bring to light the amazing story of Irena Sidler. Sidler was a Polish social worker who was responsible for the saving of over 2500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto. In 1999 when the students first accessed the news story about Irena, there was almost no information on the subject.
At the time a Google search revealed one entry. But the students persevered and through searching through public polish records found Irena, wrote her, and began their amazing odyssey.
The girls developed a performance for NHD but insuring yeas they developed so much more. They were asked to perform their play across the country, they brought Irena story to a national audience, and today, do in large part to the student’s tireless efforts Irena’s story, and the stories of those children who survived and were reunited with their families’ and continue to be reunited as a result of Megan and her organization’s efforts.
This is the power of NHD. Starting with just a desire to learn, and ending up with an organization that can change the world. Now not every kid has this kind of transformative experience but most do have some kind of experience that will transform the way they learn or look at history. It’s going to be a great week!