History Day at YSU

By Courtney Hibler

Youngstown State University will hold an annual History Day event April 6 to showcase projects based on the theme “Triumph and Tragedy.”

Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana, Ashtabula and Portage County students in grades six through 12 will develop a project using an event or a person in history to illustrate the theme. The majority of students choose to do exhibits with poster boards, while other students bring their creativity to life in documentaries, websites, performances and reports.

Each project will be judged with a reasonable standard of accomplishment to determine which students will go to the state competition held in Columbus. Students who pass the state level will then attend nationals in Washington D.C.

David Simonelli, professor in the history department and regional coordinator for Ohio History Connection, said YSU History Day has been around for 40 years, and the students participating are always creative and inspiring.

“It’s nice to see them get some of the same interest out of working with primary sources,” he said. “Looking at actual documents produced by people in the past and imagining how one should interpret their thoughts and ideas in order to produce history is great.”

In Simonelli’s opinion, students get an excellent sense of accomplishment in producing projects, learning how history works and using their creativity in various ways.

“Creativity is key,” he said. “Not a lot of students choose to write papers because they choose to do exhibits which is more fulfilling to use their imagination in order to illustrate the theme.”

Brianna Treleven, a local history member with the Ohio History Service Corps, said this will be her first year working YSU History Day, and she looks forward to talking with students about their projects and seeing the pride in their work.

“My job allows me to watch these students accomplish something in a topic they’re completely interested in,” she said.

YSU students are also involved with the history day by working the registration desks, policing the exhibit spaces and directing traffic to get people to the right place at the right time.

Students majoring in social studies education will often serve as the judges.

Justin Faller, a junior mechanical engineering major with a minor in history, said he was involved with YSU History Day in the past and enjoyed seeing students present something they worked hard on.

“History is something we will always need to know, and history day allows students to teach others something we may not have known,” he said. “Learning and teaching through creative ways may inspire someone to take up history in their educational career.”

Treleven encourages the YSU community to visit the exhibits after 12 p.m. in the McKay Auditorium in Beeghly Hall and at the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor.

“It’s encouraging to see young people interested in history and making connections to events happening today,” she said. “Watching students receive awards and advance to the state competition is a point of pride for schools and communities.”