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By Becky Brown 

Students Zyla Hill, Vianna Johnson, and Kayliana Ortiz present their research on Madam C.J. Walker  

Breaking the quiet at the end of Spring Break, the Bowen-Thompson Student Union was full of excitement as students set up their projects for the Ohio History Day Region 1 Competition on Saturday, March 11. Middle- and high-school students from across Northwest Ohio traveled with their history teachers and families to BGSU to present their own historical research, interpreted creatively through exhibits, documentaries, websites, and performances. 

Ohio History Day is a national, year-long, project-based opportunity that asks students to connect their own historical question to an annual theme. This year’s theme, Frontiers in History, encouraged many students to research aviation (always an Ohio favorite), several trailblazing figures from women’s history, and especially frontiers in the medicine, like vaccine development and the discovery of insulin.

152 students competed this year, representing Pike Delta York Middle School, Toledo Early College, and the Toledo Academy of Technology and Engineering.  

Volunteer judges, including BGSU Professor Dr. Rebecca Mancuso, talk with students about their projects at History Day 2023 

Each student had the chance to talk with the volunteer team evaluating their projects. Because OHD has been virtual for the past three years, this was the first time most of the students had participated in an in-person contest and you could immediately feel the energy in the judging rooms as students answered questions about developing their topics, confronting research obstacles and whether they still like their topic after a school-years’ worth of work on it (most said yes).  

History Day encourages students to develop skills that will be valuable later throughout high school and college, like formal writing and citation styles, but also invites students to connect history to their own experiences and current events. In an interview with BG Independent , one 9th grader from Toledo Early College, Jocelin Frelin, said: “it’s important to study the past to learn how we arrived at where we are.”  

You could see the enthusiasm from students who applied the annual theme to studying extraordinary individuals who broke barriers, like Madam CJ Walker. Walker was one of the most successful 20th-century female entrepreneurs and philanthropists who built an international business based on creating and marketing hair products specifically for Black women. Students Zyla Hill, Vianna Johnson, and Kayliana Ortiz created a tri-fold exhibit telling the story of Walker’s life and discussed their research process with their judging team (see top image).

After spending a chilly March Saturday writing comments, ranking projects, and interviewing students, the response from the 44 volunteers was almost unanimous – sign us up for next year.  

One Honorable Mention Poster.

Ohio History Day is an affiliate of National History Day, which was founded at Case Western Reserve University in 1975 and has affiliates in every U.S. state and some territories. You can find out more about National History Day here. You can find a list of students and their projects from Region 1 qualifying for the State Competition here under “Region 1.”