A pair of Huntington freshmen studied the incredible life stories of Eliza Grier and Matilda Evans.

Frosh Duo Studies African American Medical Pioneers

A pair of Huntington freshmen studied the incredible life stories of Eliza Grier and Matilda Evans.

June 19, 2020

Freshmen Jillian Panos and Grace Allen collaborated on an award winning project in this year’s National History Day competition at Huntington High School.

The duo captured honors for the Best Topic in Global History Ninth Grade for their historical exhibit titled “Two Women, One Dream,” which tells the story of Matilda Evans and Eliza Grier, two early 20th Century African American women physicians.

 Jillian Panos and Grace Allen with their award certificate in front of the exhibit.
Jillian Panos and Grace Allen with their award certificate in front of the exhibit.

“I chose this topic because I am very interested in medicine,” Ms. Panos said. “My topic was a great example of how barriers were broken for women in the medical field. Grace and I found several articles, journals and other sources that related to our topic. We read through them all and highlighted the key points. We then used the information we gathered to develop our project. We also used photos and real medical paraphernalia to construct our board.”

Ms. Panos played on the JV girls’ soccer team and she was tapped to become a Natural Helper, assisting classmates as they work through personal issues. She also participated in Huntington’s mock trial club and she was in the early stages of the spring track season when the COVID-19 pandemic brought a halt to school activities.

“Jillian and I are both very interested in the medical field,” Ms. Allen said. “When researching possible topics provided by Mr. [Peter] Crugnale, our Global History teacher, we came across the incredible story of Matilda Evans and Eliza Grier, who greatly inspired the two of us, as they were not only woman struggling to be seen in a male-dominated industry but, women of color as well. The more we read about their success, the more intrigued we became and as we were told by numerous people to pick a topic we were passionate about, we decided that it was the perfect choice for us.”

Ms. Allen plays on the Blue Devil field hockey and spring track and field teams. She also volunteers with the high school’s Key Club chapter.

“For the researching portion, Jillian and I met several times after school to set up a plan for everything that we were each going to be responsible for,” Ms. Allen said. “We also utilized FaceTime to continue discussing due dates and specific checkpoints that needed to be completed by a certain time. When putting the actual project together, I think we can both agree that this part was the most fun, as we went shopping at Michaels to pick out everything we needed to make our project stand out in a crowd of hundreds of others. We listened to music and had lots of fun decorating our board with all of the fun pictures and resources we found both online and from relatives in the medical industry.”

The research, combined with all their other commitments took a lot out of the freshmen duo. “When we finished the entire project, we were absolutely exhausted but, so proud of our hard work and relieved that it was finally completed,” Ms. Allen said. “We were so excited to bring it to school and loved seeing the reactions of all of our teachers and friends. In total, working National History Day was a great experience. I’m super excited to see what I decide to choose as my topic next year.”

Ms. Allen said she enjoys all the different academic disciplines. “I love to learn new things and educate myself on various cultures,” she said. “However, I have always been particularly interested in history and therefore Global has always been a class that I look forward to during the school day. I think learning about the past is very interesting and it’s fascinating trying to connect the dots between present life and the past. In addition, writing has always been a passion of mine and so English class is another awesome outlet for me as I get to write in a more creative way while still learning something new.”

The freshman said she also “adores” science. “I am hoping to enter the medical field for my future career, possibly in psychology, but I’m not totally sure yet,” Ms. Allen said. “My teachers have also all been wonderful throughout the year. I really have had awesome luck in terms of finding great teachers in Huntington UFSD. From Ms. [Jordan] Schessler’s positive energy in geometry class, Mrs. [Kelly] Krycinski’s obvious passion for the curriculum in English, Mrs. [Lori] Kenny’s constant warmth and support in science, to Mr. [Peter] Crugnale’s persistent drive in pushing us to be our best, I truthfully love them all and have been so lucky to have them during my freshman year of high school.”

Ms. Panos said her favorite subject has been Living Environment Honors and her favorite teacher is Lori Kenny. She is interested in a career in medicine, possibly as a nurse.

The freshman is pleased with how the historical exhibit turned out and the reaction to it. “I am very happy with the finished product,” Ms. Panos said. “I think Grace and I did a great job working together and I think we created a well done and informative project overall.”

Looking ahead, Ms. Allen is already thinking about her future and what it might hold in store for her. She’s identified her interests and is in the process of exploring them.

“When it comes to my future career, I have always known that the medical industry was my calling,” Ms. Allen said. “I want to help people; I always have and a beautiful thing about our healthcare workers is that they are always needed. My friends have always complimented me on my skills when giving advice. It’s something that I love to do and would really enjoy learning about. That’s why I feel that psychology may be the route for me as the mind is an incredible thing and can really change people’s lives once understood. On top of that, I have always been curious about pediatrics as I love being around children and feel that being so passionate about working with kids specifically would really benefit me in my field of work.”

Ms. Allen also carries an interest in the field of physical therapy. “I have always been involved in sports and have witnessed a fair share of injuries over time,” she said. “Two summers ago I actually volunteered at my dad’s friend, Mathew Deegan’s physical therapy practice, Huntington Physical Therapy. It was a wonderful experience for me, especially when it came to being in an actual working environment and interacting with a variety of patients, ranging from kids my age to people in their nineties. I also learned quite a bit, from how to correctly arrange different files to the proper way to interact with patients and keep them comfortable when discussing their injuries. Overall, I’m very grateful to have had the privilege of volunteering there and hope to explore more places that allow volunteer work with medical workers this summer.” 

Huntington freshman Grace Allen.
Huntington freshman Grace Allen.
Huntington freshman Jillian Panos.