We are now three days into the big contest and I can tell you that the energy here can only be described as electrifying. There are a lot more students on the campus now. Many of the senior finalist just arrived today (including most of the Delaware Senior finalist). Day 3 of NHD is a lot like day 2. Senior finalists come out of the woodwork to present their papers, documentaries, performances, websites, and exhibits. Delaware had Senior finalist presenting in all five categories this year. Again, like the Junior finalist, our Seniors were spread all over the University of Maryland’s campus and while it was hard to get to all of them (especially because many of them were presenting at the same time) I was able to see quite a few students!
A Senior finalist’s perspective on NHD is a little different then the Junior finalists. This has something to do with an important part of NHD that I neglected to mention in yesterday’s post. Every state in the competition comes with a state button, some states have two, three, four or more designs! There are small ones and large ones, and even buttons with fur attached to them (Alaska). But the point I’m trying to make here is that these buttons are the hot thing here at NHD, especially with the Junior finalists. From the moment the Junior finalists arrive you can see them walking up to anyone around them to ask where they are from and if they want to trade buttons (I have to admit I’ve caught button fever as well, and I am very close to capturing all 50 states’ buttons this year!). The Senior finalists, on the other hand, are far less worried about buttons. Occasionally you’ll see Senior finalists with a collection and looking for those to trade with, but much more often they seem to be stoic and preparing for their presentation. That is, of course, until their judging time is over and they feel like they can let their hair down and relax (and maybe even trade a few buttons).
For a better idea of what this competition is like, I caught up with a few Senior finalists and asked them questions about their experiences.
The first Senior I ran into was Jordyn B. She was getting ready to present her website to the judges. I asked her about how she felt going into the competition and she simply replied, “Is there a stronger word then freaking out?” We both laughed but she did tell me that her favorite part of NHD was the Award Ceremony and of course, the buttons.
Kayla S. was the next Senior on the scene (it seems a large group of Delaware Senior finalist had decided to meet at the Stamp Student Center, the heart of the NHD competition). Kayla was presenting a paper today and I asked her how she felt her chances were in the competition. She told me, “Good I guess, I haven’t really thought about it. I read over my paper on the way over here to refresh myself.” When I asked Kayla what she thought the best part of NHD was, her eyes lit up and she said, “It’s the experience, you get college experience and it helps prepare you for college…”
After talking to Jordyn and Kayla for a little while longer I jetted off to a building across campus where Brandi B. and Tiara W. were giving their performance. I got there just in time to see the start of it. The girls were powerful and confident in their lines. After the performance I asked them how they thought it went. They both thought it went well and their performance was a lot stronger then the one they gave in the State competition. I asked them what their goal was for the competition, and with a smile, Brandi said, “To make it to the 2nd round.” Leaving the girls, I definitely felt they had a good chance to reaching that goal.
Next up was Sarah B. who was presenting an exhibit. I asked Sarah how she felt about being judged at Nationals and she replied, “I’m less nervous then I was for states because I did it before at the state contest. They can’t ask too different of questions.” She added that being at Nationals can be “overwhelming,” but as she walked into the exhibit hall she was all smiles.
The next set of Senior finalists I ran into were Avery W., Julianne L., and Monica D. All three girls were being judged at a later time but rode up together to enjoy the team spirit. As we stood around talking I asked Avery what she liked about NHD. She told me, “It’s the experience, seeing and experiencing everyone from different states, seeing different cultures and meeting everyone.” I asked Julianne if she was nervous at all and she said, “No, I think you just have to act confident in your answers. We know a lot about the topic and researched it a lot, so I think we are prepared.” Finally, I asked Monica if she would do NHD again. She thought about it for a moment before telling me, “It was a lot of work but I think I would do it again. It was hard balancing all my time…it takes a lot of time but I really loved learning about my topic.”
As Avery, Julianne, Monica and I were talking; they soon realized that they could take me to more Delaware Senior finalists. Victoria B. and Catherine H. were waiting for the girls downstairs in the food court area of the Stamp. I followed the girls down the stairs and we soon joined their families and the other two girls. After a quick introduction I asked Victoria and Catherine about what they thought the best part of NHD was and Victoria said, “Just the experience itself. This is our first time at State or Nationals.” Catherine quickly added, “We learned so much from one little project, especially time management.”
Speaking of time management, I was running late! I wished all the girls good luck and ran off to meet my final Seniors for the day. Kerianna F. and Camille F., now these are old pros! They both have been doing Delaware History Day and National History Day performances for a number of years. They both go to the same school, are in the same category and still both root for each other. Kerianna’s performance had been in the beginning of the day, which I unfortunately had missed, but she was here to support her friend Camille. Before going into Camille’s performance, I asked Kerianna how her performance went, she answered, “It went really well, I liked my judges and they asked me really good questions.” I asked her what her favorite part of doing performances in NHD is and she said, “It was just getting the experience of looking into other people’s lives and telling their stories.”
Before I could ask any other questions it was Camille’s time to go on. We all filed into the room and watched Camille set up her props. Camille seemed cool and confident as she waited for the judges to giver her, her cue to start. Soon after she started everyone in the room was transfixed by her characters and narratives. The judges really seemed to connect with Camille and her topic. After her performance I asked Camille how she thought it went, with a smile she said, “It went well, the judges smiled at me and asked lots of questions.”
Well that was the end of my day visiting Senior finalists. Unfortunately, I did not get to see Joshua J., Michael R., Lacey W., Ronald L., Mary Kate G., Merissa C., Nathaniel C., Spencer S., Danielle W., Megan L., Skyler S., Bethany G., or Abhishek R. Most of these students were in groups so I really only missed 5 presentations, but I do hope all of their judgings went well!
After all the Senior finalists were done, and a lot of our Delaware Seniors went back to Delaware, the NHD day was still not over! The Junior finalists in performances and documentaries which had been ranked first or second in their judging groups had to perform one more time for run off judges! Tonight went well into the 9 o’clock hour for some! For others their big hour came around 7pm when the Senior run off performances and documentaries were announced. Unfortunately, Delaware did not have any Junior performances or documentaries go to the run offs, but I am happy to announce that our very own Camille F. will be performing in the run offs tomorrow morning! Ellen and I couldn’t be more proud of her, and we are really looking forward to seeing her again tomorrow!
Well that’s it from me for tonight. I know this was a very long blog, but I wanted to give everyone equal time, they definitely deserved it! As always, if you have anything you would like to know about NHD, please just leave your questions in the comments below and I will answer them this week! Look for more updates tomorrow on Day 4, the Senior run off and our trip to the Smithsonian!