Rylee Davis created an individual exhibit that has reached the state finals.

Huntington Students Prep for History Day State Finals

Rylee Davis created an individual exhibit that has reached the state finals.

March 29, 2022

A strong contingent of students and their projects will vie in this year’s New York State History Day finals. The teenagers qualified by being among the top finishers in the Long Island regional last week. The state finalists will now polish their projects before submitting them to judges who will announce the results on May 2.

“The National History Day program is recognized as the nation’s oldest and most highly regarded history program for students in grades 6-12,” said social studies teacher Lauren Desiderio, who leads the Huntington’s History Day Club. “Our students have continued to build upon Huntington’s reputation and success. I am extremely proud of each and every one of our competitors. Despite some disruption to their education over the last two years due to the pandemic, our students have still risen to the occasion and conducted exceptional research as they developed their projects this school year.” 

The state finalists earlier submitted their projects for adjudication in Huntington High School’s annual contest before advancing to the regional level. “Our students explored local, state, national and world history topics that related to this year’s ‘Debate and Diplomacy’ theme,” Mrs. Desiderio said. “In particular, I was introduced to topics that I was very unfamiliar with such as the debates that ensued over the building of  Shoreham Power Plant, the Minnesota Semi-Starvation Experiment and the scientific diplomacy that took placed between US and USSR scientists at the height of the Cold War. Our students were even able to secure an interview with world-renowned epidemiologist, Dr. Peter Salk about his father’s work on the polio vaccine.”

Mrs. Desiderio said 490 students, representing 42 schools submitted 279 projects for consideration on the regional level. “It is an incredible achievement that we will be sending eight winning entries from Huntington High School and one winning entry from J. Finley Middle School to compete at the New York State History Day competition next month,” the teacher added.

This year’s State History Day contest will be held virtually due to continuing COVID-19 related concerns. In pre-pandemic years, the competition was held in and around Cooperstown.

“I am also incredibly proud of Jordana Boxer, who under the guidance of social studies teacher Jarrad Richter, is our first Finley Middle School student to move onto the state competition in many, many years,” Mrs. Desiderio said. “Through Mr. Richter’s dedication to the Yorker Club and his mentorship, our Finley participants and the research experience they have gained have gone on to do very well in this competition at the high school level.”

Huntington’s state finalists spent many weeks researching topics and putting together their projects; some devoted months. All of them are thrilled to be headed to the state level.

“I am extremely appreciative of the support our district leadership and my colleagues have provided as well as the mentorship our National History Day officers have offered to competing students,” Mrs. Desiderio said. “We are looking forward to the state competition and have our eyes on nationals!”

Those who are advancing to the state finals said the accomplishment makes all of their hard work worth it.

“As this is my first time competing in National History Day, I never imagined that I would make it this far in the competition,” said Rylee Davis, who captured second place at the LI regionals in the individual exhibit category for her project titled “Minnesota Semi-Starvation Study: Working Towards Relief.” “I have learned so much and I am grateful for the opportunity to represent our school.”

Sophomores Hillel and Shaina Linker are also headed to the state finals in the group website category for their project titled, “The Camp David Accords: A Road to Lasting Peace.” “We are excited and honored to be part of such a great competition,” Hillel Linker said.

Emily Kustera also has high hopes for success on the state level after capturing second place in the LI regionals for her individual performance category project titled, “The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra: Changing the World One Note at a Time.” “I was so excited to hear I am advancing to the New York State level competition,” Ms. Kustera said. “I picked a topic that related to my passion in music. The East-Western Divan Orchestra brings people of diverse backgrounds and cultures together to share in their love of music.”

McKenna Buffa and her project partners Talia Addeo and Laurel Bonn are basking in the glow of garnering second place honors in the group website category for their project titled, “The Chinese Exclusion Act: How the Debate Over Chinese Immigration Sparked Diplomatic Tensions.” All three are hoping to duplicate their success on the state level and beyond.

“Since this is our last year participating in National History Day, we worked super hard on our website to make it our best yet,” Ms. Buffa said. “We are really excited to have placed at regionals and to be closer to achieving our goal of reaching nationals.”

Teachers who mentored their students and who helped serve as local competition judges are also pleased with Huntington’s success at the Long Island regionals.

“I’d like to commend all the students who submitted projects for the Long Island History Day competition,” high school social studies teacher Kenneth Donovan said. “The submissions reflected months of diligent research and are a testament to our students’ dedication. This year’s submissions were particularly strong.”

Among Huntington’s strongest entries in the state finals contest will be Haileigh Smith’s individual website project titled, “The Civil War: Diplomacy Across The Map.” The project won first place honors locally and at the LI regional finals.

“Haleigh Smith’s project was one of the best-sourced research projects I’ve seen in my career,” Mr. Donovan said.


Emily Kustera will vie in the state finals in the individual performance category.
Emily Kustera will vie in the state finals in the individual performance category.
Sophie Bradford's individual exhibit on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is exceptional.
Sophie Bradford's individual exhibit on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is exceptional.