Several Lawrence High School students won national honors recently at the National History Day competition at the University of Maryland.
"It was a fantastic group of students who competed," said Tracy Murray, a social studies teacher at LHS who traveled with the students. "It was better than we could have imagined. The students showed themselves and their abilities very well."
The theme of this year's competition was "Turning Points," and each of the entries focused on significant events that changed the course of history.
Elbegduuren Erdenee, Hazlett Henderson and YuKyung Lee, all 2013 graduates, advanced to the final round of competition and placed 13th in the nation for their group website, "Chinggis Khaan and Pax Mongolica," which detailed the historical and economic impact of the 13th century Mongolian conqueror popularly known as Genghis Khan.
Erdenee, the daughter of Mongolian parents, explained before the competition that she believed Khaan had been misrepresented in history by western authors, who tend to focus on his military conquests and often brutal tactics.
But he was also an early believer in religious tolerance, and built an empire that eventually stretched across most of the Eurasian continent, establishing commercial trade routes that can still be seen in the economies of that region today.
Meanwhile, a special prize in Asian-American history was awarded to Sarah Kinder and Rose Kennedy, both incoming seniors, for a documentary they produced called "San Francisco Earthquake: Chinese Exclusion Falls Through the Cracks."
The film uses archive footage and interviews with descendants of the 1911 disaster to explore one of its side effects: how it disrupted the federal government's decades-long attempt to cut off immigration from China.
“Exclusion laws were becoming extremely strict, and so once the earthquake hit, all of the documentation of residents was destroyed,” Kinder said. “So Chinese immigrants were able to come into the country and claim relatives that were on the mainland.”
Pujah Shah, who will be a senior next year, also competed with an individual documentary she produced called "Mickey Mouse Goes to War: Walt Disney's Contributions to the War Effort."
The film explores how the famed cartoonist and his studio company contributed to the U.S. propaganda effort during World War II with films such as "Donald Duck Joins Up," as well as many other films he produced on contract with the military.
Murray said only four of the six students who qualified were able to make the trip to College Park, Md., which is just outside Washington, D.C.
The students qualified by placing first or second in their categories at the Kansas History Day competition in April.