National History Day

By: Matthew Weaver on May 8, 2021 | Categories: General, Clubs

For the past six months, several cadets have been practicing to represent CMA in the regional and state history day competition, which took place on Monday, March 1, 2021. Due to COVID, the event was held virtually, and the final project had to be recorded before submitting it. We won first place in first place in the senior high group category, grades 9-12. The senior high-performance title was “Dirty Spies With Dirty Lies: Communication Among Spies Within the Cold War” by John Simmons, Maddox Brown, Xavier Hudgins, Wendell Wojak, and Sean Skaritanov.

These students competed in the South Carolina state championship on April 17, 2021.

They will now compete for the National Championship held at The University of Maryland at College Park, Maryland. “The National Contest is the final stage of a series of contests at local and state-affiliated levels. Students begin their journey by presenting their projects in classrooms, schools, and districts around the world. Top entries are invited to the state/affiliate level contests. The top two entries in every category at the state/affiliate level are then invited to the National Contest. The 2021 National Contest will be held in June 2021. Due to COVID the event will be held virtually. Each year nearly 3,000 students with their families and teachers gather at the University of Maryland, College Park for the week-long event. These enthusiastic groups come from all fifty United States, Washington, D.C., Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and international schools in China, Korea, and South Asia. The excitement can be felt across the campus. After spending months on project research and preparation and competing at local and affiliate contests, these students are eager to show their hard work at the National Contest.” ( National History Day)

These three contests are usually held in person. You could learn more about the program at

Below are the comments from the cadets who won the South Carolina state championship in the senior high-performance contest.

“NHD this year was very different in a lot of ways. We had to go through a lot and do a lot in a short period of time while there were a lot of struggles holding us back. We had to put in a huge amount of work. We worked hard and got past regionals, and we had to ask a whole lot more to make sure we could pass dates and go to nationals. We got everything together and added it to our backdrop. We added more sources and updated everything, and then finally, we did the performance again as well as the questions and submitted everything. It was about a week later when I was told we won states- but not just that, we also won first place for it which was an amazing feeling. I can't wait until we get to perform again for nationals.” - Wendell Wojak (Miami Beach, Florida)

“This year, National History Day was very interesting. Because of COVID-19, everything had to be recorded and uploaded. This made research difficult in some areas because we couldn’t do face-to-face meetings with people like most years. This made registration a little hard. But even through the struggles, we are going to nationals just like last year. Even though we had less resources, we have still succeeded. This year, we had a rushed timeline of 2 ½ weeks to get the regional performance finished. So, not only did we make it to nationals last year, we made it this year with COVID-19, limited resources, and 2 ½ weeks to get the project done.” - John Simmons (Steamboat Springs, Colorado)

“National History Day this year was a difficult journey. Our topic this year was Communications in History. We started out in January, right after we came back from our extra long winter break, to research our project. After a lot of brainstorming and potential topics, we decided upon the Cold War and how spies communicate covertly with their intelligence agencies. We were going every day after school for a long period of time, taking notes and preparing for our performance. We started by hashing out important people that were involved in the Cold War. On top of this, we had to make a process paper with all of our 40+ sources and a paper describing the process we went through in making the performance. All of this was in preparation for the regional round of NHD. We won the regional round, and we advanced into the state round. We used a couple of weeks between regionals and states to revise our performance according to the judges' critiques. We revised the script, changed some of the choreography of the scenes, made some additions to our process paper, and fixed the formatting. We then redid the performance with our revisions in place, and we turned it in, hoping for the best. A couple of days ago, we got word that our performance got first place in states and has advanced into the national round! This is very exciting for all of us because our hard work is finally starting to pay off. The winner of the national round of NHD is crowned the winner of the whole competition and is given prizes and rewards. Just being in the national round is also a very good resume builder for us and will look great on college applications in our near future. I am very excited for this opportunity and ready to get back to work and improve our performance even more so we can win nationals!” - Sean Skaritanov (Needham, Massachusetts)

“The 2021 National History Day states competition has been an amazing experience. Through a long line of tradition at Camden Military, the performance category was the best option due to the extremely influential knowledge and determined mentality of the group and the teachers. With the guidance of Lieutenant Colonel John Heflin and Major Alice Thaxton, we were able to invest countless hours of hard work in doing an outstanding project. The 2021 NHD theme was Communications in History. The senior group put in a tremendous amount of hard work and determination to be fortunate enough to obtain first place in the regional and state competition. Our group wanted to go the extra mile to show how crucial communications are and their importance in history, specifically historical warfare. The senior group consisted of five members, Sean Skaritanov, John Simmons, Xavier Hudgins, Wendell Wojak, and myself. We got together and ended up choosing communication among spies throughout the Cold War. We used a chessboard to provide a metaphor for the entire Cold War. Overall, NHD this year was a great experience and one I'm looking forward to having again next year.” - Maddox Brown (Erie, Colorado)

“When we started the states competition, we knew we had to kind of up our game. I had to find more sources, improve the bibliography, and edit our background. We decided to change up the script a little bit and also practice our lines. When I heard we won, I was relieved to know all of our hard work paid off. Also, just the feeling of winning an academic contest against the stiff competition is inspiring. It makes me want to work harder and accomplish twice as much this time. In conclusion, the state competition was hard and competitive, but in the end, we prevailed.” - Xavier Hudgins (Rockwall, Texas)

This year’s National History Day competition has been completely different from past years due to the unfortunate and unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state-level competition, regional level competition, and national level competition have all gone virtual to preserve the safety of everyone involved. I had an interesting experience the other day related to this. My students and I were watching this year’s state competition results, which were sent from a link from our state coordinator, Brandon Palmer. Mr. Palmer is a history professor at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina, which has sponsored NHD for roughly the last 5 years. During the competition results, I heard my name mentioned. I had to replay the video. I thought I might have misheard something. Listening back again, paying closer attention, I heard that the 2021 Senior High Division Teacher of the year was myself. I was in shock. I wasn’t expecting it at all. I have participated in National History Day since 1998, and I have seen many different state coordinators come and go over the years. I remember starting off with National History Day as a newcomer- now I am the longest participating teacher. However, it has never been about me; it has been about our students- they’re the ones who benefit and learn from this program. There are several faculty members at Camden Military Academy I would like to thank for their commitment to making our National History Day groups the best they can possibly be. Firstly, I would like to thank Lieutenant Colonel Deborah Hartley for her years of assistance and advice, as well as Major Alice Thaxton for her unwavering dedication; staying late hours to ensure work was done, planning with the group members, assisting our students with rehearsals, and making all things possible through the years. Lastly, I would like to thank Colonel Boland, our headmaster at CMA, for his years-long support of the National History Day program at Camden. We have been blessed to attend the national championships for roughly 14 years in a row, and we could not have done it without the support of everyone involved. This one’s for you all! LTC John Heflin