Local student excells in history

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By Kirsten Laskey

History is Los Alamos High School student Shannon Burns’ favorite subject, which became very clear during the National History Day Contest.

During the competition, which was held June 15-19 at the University Maryland, Burns not only took her project, “Molly’s Children: The American/Irish Mining Conflict,” into the finals, earning 10th place, but was presented one of two awards from the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Ladies Ancient Order Hibernians.

Being presented this award “was really great,” Burns said. She remembers bolting across the stage to receive her award.

“It was exhilarating to go up and shake hands with the coordinator and the president of the History Channel,” she said. “It was so much fun.”

The success was surprising, however. “That was a lot further than I expected to go,” Burns said.

When she saw her name on the list for the final competition, Burns said she was stunned. “It’s a great honor to earn 10th in the nation.”

Burns explained her project dealt with the Molly Maguires, a rebel mine group in Pennsylvania.

She did a documentary about this rogue group of miners, and to reflect this year’s theme of conflict and compromise, the film observed both sides of the situation, the miners and the mining company.

What carried Burns to the competition, she said, “were my film production skills.”

Burns was not the only one to represent Los Alamos. High school students Ellen Rabin and Hannah DeNevers also competed at the national level.

Burns said she hopes to continue participating in History Day. “History is my favorite subject,” she explained.

“I have an appreciation of history ee I’ve been doing the competition for three years now, and it’s definitely my favorite subject and something I want to pursue when I grow up,” Burns said.

She added in history, there are many different things to study and a lot of layers to examine. However, “if you understand history better, (you can) understand events today.”

Burns encourages others to get involved in the competition. It’s underrepresented, but it can teach young people a lot, she said.

According to a National History Day press release, each fall more than half a million students nationwide begin the year-long National History Day program, competing in a series of history contests in local districts and states. Top students in each category are selected for participation in the national contest.

Students present their work in a variety of ways, by creating museum-type exhibits, video documentaries, original performances, or traditional research papers or educational websites, the press release reports.

During the recent competition, more than 300 historians and other professionals judged entries. Scholarships totaling $150,000 were awarded to select students, and about 100 students took home cash prizes.