Cherry Hill students near top of the class in History Channel competition

Cherry Hill students near top of the class in History Channel competition


On a Friday night, the last thing most middle school students are thinking about is history class.

However, for a small team from Rosa International Middle School, they spent many of their Friday nights thinking about nothing but history.

More than 1,000 hours of brainstorming, hard work and determination ultimately paid off for Nishaad Khedkar, Hyder Alikhan, Nate Gordon and Shaunak Nadkarni. The team finished in fourth place in the History Channel’s National History Day competition.

The team advanced through the regional and state level to reach the national competition with their documentary on Thomas Paine.

Christy Marrella, a history teacher at Rosa and coach for the National History Day team, said the students became engaged with Paine’s story in class.

“I had just started National History Day and the boys had been giving Common Sense,” she said. “They got very interested in him and they came to realize that in most textbooks, even in AP textbooks, he gets less than a paragraph.”

Once Paine was selected, the team went to work creating a documentary about him. The 10-minute video details Paine’s writings and the role he played in the United States’ independence from Great Britain. The video includes narration and interviews with historians from around the area.

The research, interviews and video editing took the team most of the school year to complete.

“They spent over 1,000 hours outside of school to make this,” Marrella said. “We stayed every day after school, most days until seven at night.”

“We definitely put in a lot of hard work,” Nadkarni said. “We would stay after school almost every single day.”

Nadkarni had expressed an interest in history entering last school year. As tough as the work was at times, the encouragement from Marrella helped keep them motivated.

“My teacher was all about it because it was very dear to her heart,” Nadkarni said.

Finding the time to complete the project was challenging. All team members also participated in other activities, so Marrella had to get creative to find a way to work around everyone’s schedules.

The team was able to get the documentary finished and was selected to go to nationals after being named one of the top projects at a regional competition.

Nadkarni said it was a thrill just to reach the national level, an honor reserved for the top 100 projects in the country. However, when they were picked as one of the best projects overall, thrill turned into euphoria.

“It was definitely very exciting,” he said “Getting fourth in the nation over 6,000 students is a real accomplishment.”

In addition to the fourth place overall finish, the team won an award for Outstanding Revolutionary Entry. They will have their documentary screened this summer at Colonial Williamsburg.

For Marella, the team’s accomplishments are a testament to their teamwork. She said the students worked very well together. Not only did the team finish in fourth place overall, but Marella believes the students learned lessons outside history.

“In the future, they will have jobs that will require collaborative efforts,” she said. “It’s this journey that you learn a lot about yourself.”