Lily Polak is an insightful young woman who has never shied away from a good challenge. The Huntington High School freshman took on a tough topic for this year’s National History Day contest and she produced an exceptional exhibit that captured the 2020 Principal’s Award.
Titled “Charles Loring Brace: Revolutionizing Protection for the Forgotten Children of America,” Ms. Polak’s exhibit tells the story of the American philanthropist and founder of the Children’s Aid Society who is regarded as the father of the modern foster care movement.
Ms. Polak’s project fit nicely into this year’s National History Day theme of “Breaking Barriers.” Principal Brenden Cusack presented the teenager with this year’s Principal’s Award during a ceremony attended by a crowd of more than 200.
“I originally chose my topic because I’ve always been interested in the foster care system,” Ms. Polak said. “When you hear about the system, you either hear about the stories of children suffering from neglect and abuse from foster parents or the exact opposite; children being given a second chance with families who will truly cherish them. Nonetheless, we know the system is very controversial. Personally, my aunt and uncle were given a child because of the foster care system, yet 124 children died from the system in 2019. Therefore, I felt it was only right to do a project about where the system came from. The project took a considerable amount of time. It’s not a regular poster board project, it’s an exhibit. I had to think about the little details from the color of the board, to the font and even the type of glue. However, what took the longest time was the information on the board, not the look of the board.”
After completing her research and winning an award, the freshman took time to reflect on her experience. “I am really proud of my project,” Ms. Polak said. “Considering I’m not a carpenter nor historian, I’m happy with how it turned out. It was my first time doing the project and I think I did okay. I definitely learned from this experience and I’m going to take a different approach next time.”
Ms. Polak was planning to join the Blue Devil crew team, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented it along with diving into the “shark tank” in Business Management and participating in her second training session with AWOD/A World of Difference club.
“During these difficult times I’ve been focusing on my community,” Ms. Polak said. “I have an important role in the mission committee at my church. Right now we’re collecting donations for Helping Hand Rescue Mission, Tri-CYA and HACO (Harborfields Alliance for Community Outreach).”
The teenager said she has always enjoyed English, Spanish and social studies. “I thrive in any place I can write,” Ms. Polak said. “It’s very hard for me to decide my favorite teacher; I love all of my teachers this year. Each of my teachers have all positively impacted me. They have motivated me to work harder, learn more and push my limits. If I could choose out of all my teachers it would be a tie between Mr. [Peter] Crugnale and Mrs. [Kelly] Krycinski.”
Ms. Polak hopes to develop and utilize her writing and speaking skills and pursue a career as a prosecutor.