National History Day: National Competition 2023

By Kate Melchior and Simbrit Paskins

On 11 June, for the first time in four years, a team of 61 middle and high school students from across Massachusetts set out to the University of Maryland, College Park, for the 2023 NHD National Contest. There they joined a group of over 3,000 students representing all 50 United States, Washington, D.C., Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and international schools in China, Korea, and South Asia.  Can you picture it? A sea of young people, on a college campus, excited about history and ready to take Nationals by storm!

Image shows the backs of several students walking towards a building. Students are wearing red t-shirts and black drawstring bags with a white MHS History day logo imprinted.
Massachusetts students at NHD National Contest

Once at College Park, students spent the week presenting the documentaries, website, exhibits, performances, and papers they’ve worked on all year; traded state pins and stories with students from around the world; and shared in the incredible experience that is National History Day.

During their four-day stay in College Park, students experienced life on a college campus, staying in dorms and eating in the school dining halls with students from around the world. They viewed the exhibits and performances of other students and explained their own topics of research to new friends. They also participated in a variety of activities just for fun with their Massachusetts cohort, including a monument tour of D.C., a New England board game night, and an ice cream party. Finally, on the last day they participated in a massive parade and award ceremony in the UMD Stadium.

Image shows hundreds of students wearing different colored t-shirts and holding a variety of props to represent their state, marching in a circle around a large auditorium.
NHD parade in the UMD Stadium

We are incredibly proud to highlight the following achievements from our National History Day Massachusetts team:  

Gold Medal and National Endowment for the Humanities Scholars

Winner(s): Harry Liu, Alexander Lay, and Spencer Carman
School: Ottoson Middle School, Arlington
Teacher: Jason Levy
Junior Group Website: “PARC v. Pennsylvania: Pioneering the Right to Education for Children with Cognitive Impairments”

Special Prize: Outstanding Project in Discovery or Exploration in History

Sponsored by the Library of Congress, this prize is awarded in the junior and senior divisions for an outstanding project in any category on American or international discovery or exploration. 

Winner(s): Ruthanna Kern
School: Somerville High School, Somerville
Teacher: Adda Santos
Senior Individual Performance: “Broken: The Treaties of Fort Laramie and the Myth of the Frontier”

Outstanding Affiliate Awards: Massachusetts

Junior Division Winner(s): Cora Dutton, Nadia Hackbarth-Davis, Jiwan Ryu, and Elena Zaganjori
School: Ottoson Middle School, Arlington
Teacher: Jason Levy
Junior Group Documentary: “Now I’ve Got The Pill: Oral Contraceptives and How They Changed The Lives of American Women”

Senior Division Winner(s): Jake Bassinger and Sofia Brown
School: Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School, Wenham
Teacher: Anne Page
Senior Group Performance: “CURIE: a radioactive frontier in science”

We’d also like to extend a special shoutout to our Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year Nominees Gail Buckley of Willow Hill School in Sudbury and Barbara Sturtevant of Marshall Simonds Middle School in Burlington. Congratulations to them and to all of our student historians and the teachers, families, friends, and communities who supported them.

If you are interested in learning more about NHD or joining us as a teacher, student, or judge for National History Day in Massachusetts 2024, please visit our website at