Cherry Hill students recognized for National History Day projects

Students could submit entries in five categories, including documentary and website

Among the winners are Matthew Aynbinder, Athira Kasthuri, Sophia Rood, Anna Yang Alvia Chen, Collin Lu, Zachary Tsai, Ethan Yan and Justin Zhou. (Special to The Sun)

The board of education kicked off its Sept. 26 meeting by recognizing the 2023 winners of the National History Day Contest.

This year’s theme was “Frontiers in History: People, Ideas and Events” and students could submit in one of five categories: documentary, exhibit, paper, performance or website.

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Christy Marrella, the middle school history teacher who oversaw the projects, noted that though this was the largest group of students they had brought to compete at the University of Maryland. Though it started with around 70 students, only two groups of eighth graders went on the trip: a junior group performance and a junior group exhibit.

“It was such an incredible experience looking at Frontiers and History,” said Marrella. ” … This group were not just great historians, they were great civic minded individuals who spent well over 1500 hours outside of school.”

She recalled staying until nearly 6 o’clock every day and staying until 7 p.m. and ordering pizza on Fridays. The teams also met nearly every Saturday from December to June.

Rosa International Middle School Students Anna Yang, Athira Kasthuri, Matthew Aynbinder and Sophia Rood received the African American History Award for their group exhibit “The Forgotten Melody of Freedom: Marian Anderson’s Unconventional Fight for Equality.”

Meanwhile, students Alvia Chen, Collin Lu, Zachary Tsai, Ethan Yan and Justin Zhou won fourth place in the nation for their junior group documentary on Varian Fry. Marrella noted that their documentary would be recorded again in Congress in October and their research and work will be represented to the house and senate.

“It’s actually very hard to place in the top 10, so we’re very proud of them,” Marrella said.

This year’s National History Day Contest award ceremony was held in person for the first time in four years. The 17 were part of the 2,600 students and 600 teachers who participated the week-long contest in June.

As explained by National History Day’s website, “the ceremony was the culmination not only of the week-long contest but also of a year of student research, project creation, and competition. During the 2022–2023 school year, over half a million students globally completed projects centered around the theme, Frontiers in History: People, Ideas, and Events, in one of five categories: documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, or website.”

” … It is an activity that transcends the classroom and it’s way more than a competition and a day, it’s really a journey and a passion,” said Marrella.

The board approved on first reading policies for school threat assessment teams and unpaid meal charges for outstanding food charges. The first policy creates a threat assessment team to help identify individuals at risk for “engaging in violence or other harmful activities and delivering intervention strategies to manage the risk of harm for students who pose a potential safety risk, to prevent targeted violence in the school and ensure a safe and secure school environment that enhances the learning experience for all members in the school community.”

The second policy outlines what happens when students have unapid meal charges or outstanding food service charges. When this happens, the student will not be permitted to charge a la carte items. When the lunch or breakfast bill reaches $10, the student’s parents will be contacted in writing and provide parents a 10-day period to pay the full amount. If the bill reaches $25, the student can continue to receive lunch and charge accordingly, and the parents will be contacted by the building principal or guidance counselor by phone to discuss the balance and familial needs. Once the bill reaches $75, parents will be required to attend an in-person meeting with the superintendent, the business administrator and the building principal.

The board of education encouraged parents to fill out a free and reduced lunch application, as more people have become eligible due to changes in the requirements.

In other news, administrators Fatihah Abdur-Rahman, Kristi Blundetto and  Allison Staffin gave an overview on grant application submitted on Sept. 18 for $460,000 for High Impact Tutoring.

The next board of education meeting will be on Tuesday, Oct. 17, at 6:30 p.m.

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