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51 North Carolina Students Participate in National History Day Competition

Large group of students stand on stage with ribbons and prizes

Earlier this month, 51 North Carolina students from 23 schools and 14 counties joined over 2,800 middle and high school students from across the globe at the University of Maryland in College Park for National History Day®.

National History Day® is designed to inspire historical inquiry in middle and high school classrooms through hands-on discovery. The National History Day® program in North Carolina is called N.C. History Day and is managed by the N.C. Department of Natural & Cultural Resources. This year, North Carolina Humanities helped more schools in rural communities participate in N.C. History Day by aiding in the creation of a new contest region – the Sandhills Region. North Carolina Humanities also helped purchase and distribute materials and exhibit boards for students, as well as training materials and professional development for teachers.

“It’s wonderful to see a whole new student population participate in N.C. History Day because preserving and exploring history is deeply embedded in our mission at North Carolina Humanities,” said Sherry Paula Watkins, North Carolina Humanities Executive Director.

N.C. History Day is open to public, charter, private, early college, and homeschool students in grades 6th through 12th. This year, nine regional competitions were organized, including in the new Sandhills Region, through which over 5,000 students engaged in researching and analyzing this year’s theme, “Turning Points in History.” Students then presented their findings in various creative formats such as exhibits, papers, websites, documentaries, and performances.

These regional North Carolina contests culminated at the state contest held on May 4th at UNC Greensboro, where students emerged as the top finalists in their respective categories. In total, 419 students from 61 schools presented 256 projects. After an engaging day of exploration, reflection, and discussion, Dr. Mike Wakeford, North Carolina Humanities Board Chair and Associate Professor of History and Humanities at UNCSA, helped present the state contest awards to the top finalists. The full list of 2024 N.C. History Day finalists can be found at:

David Milbourne receives prize on stage
David Milbourne with Dr. Jim Clark from the North Caroliniana Society, Dr. Mike Wakeford, NC Humanities Board Chair, and Dr. Darin Waters, Deputy Secretary for Office of Archives and History for the N.C. Department of Natural & Cultural Resources.

Among the top finalists were two students from the new Sandhills Region, who advanced to the national level of the competition:

  • Tenth grader David Milbourne from Reid Ross Classical High in Fayetteville, N.C., with his individual performance, “How Did the September 11th Attacks Change the U.S.?”.

  • Eleventh grader Samuel Pate from Massey Hill Classical High in Fayetteville, N.C., with his individual documentary, “How Personal Photography Changed Our View of Warfare”.

The top two projects from each category at the state N.C. History Day contest qualified to attend the national level of the contest that was held June 9th-13th at the University of Maryland at College Park. More than half a million students from all 50 states, Washington D.C., U.S. territories, and international schools participated in the program this year. Among those, 51 North Carolina students participated in the national contest.

Here are a selection of the special opportunities North Carolina students were able to participate in:

four photos show Blair next to exhibit panels

Sixth grader Abigail Blair from The International School at Gregory in Wilmington, N.C., represented her group at the National History Day documentary showcase at the Oprah Winfrey Theater at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and attended a special reception with Smithsonian staff and special guests. Her group’s documentary, “The Day the River Ran Red: The Wilmington Coup of 1898,” was one of 17 documentaries out of 200 that were selected for this event.

Eighth grader Michael Wei from Davis Drive Middle in Cary, N.C., attended a writer’s workshop and tour of the White House Visitor Center for his research paper, “Citizenship, the 14th Amendment, and Justice.”

Wei stands next to turtle statue
NC History Day Seal

Seven high school documentary students from Rockingham County Early College High, Early College at Guilford, Chapel Hill High, and Massey Hill Classical High (Fayetteville), were invited to attend an exclusive talk led by famed documentarian Ken Burns.

Eighth graders Zipporah Tunnage and Olivia Stetler from Holly Shelter Middle in Castle Hayne, N.C., had their exhibit, “In Flames: America’s Only Successful Coup,” on display in the National Museum of American History. Each state program was able to select one exhibit from their delegation for this honor. The students were accompanied by their teacher, Mr. Stanek, and spent the day sharing this North Carolina history with Smithsonian staff and members of the general public. The museum staff also did a special behind the scenes tour of artifacts not on display for the students. Seeing the original Elmo up close was a big hit with all!

Collage of photos show Tunnage and Stetler receiving prize.
Hardy is dressed in period clothing and speaks on stage

Senior Isabella Hardy from Gryphon Academy in Crossnore, N.C., performed her project, “Hang Down Your Head and Cry: The Turning Point of the American Folk Revival,” at the National Museum of American History. Only 13 students out of 200 were selected to perform. Isabella has competed at the National Contest all seven years of middle and high school. Her performance was followed by a Q&A session with the general public where she left all in attendance greatly impressed.

Nineth grader Magali Murray from Crossroads FLEX in Cary, N.C. got to meet NASA astronaut and United States Navy SEAL Chris Cassidy and gave him a N.C. History Day button.

Murray presents National History Day pin to astronaut.

At the national awards ceremony, four North Carolina student projects placed in the top 10 in the Nation in their respective categories. Of those, two won special cash prizes for excelling in a specific area of history and two were recognized as N.C. Outstanding Entry for their division.

They are as follows:

Mocharnuk holds medal

North Carolina Outstanding Entry in the Senior Division was awarded to Nishitha Daniel and Abigail Mocharnuk, from the Early College of Guilford for their website project, “The Holodomor: A Turning Point in the History of Genocide.” They were 4th in the Nation in their category. Abby received the award for the group since Nishitha could not attend in person.

Junior Division Outstanding Entry Award went to Olivia Stetler and Zipporah Tunnage from Holly Shelter Middle for their exhibit, “In Flames: America’s Only Successful Coup.” They were 8th in the Nation in the Junior Group Exhibit category.

Tunnage and Stetler stand next to each other with medals around their necks
Four photos show Hardy celebrating and standing with her medal around her neck.

Isabella Hardy from Gryphon Academy (Avery County) came in 5th in the Nation in the Senior Individual Performance category and won the Arts in History special prize for her project, “Hang Down Your Head and Cry: The Turning Point of the American Folk Revival.”

Kathryne Hong from Durham Academy was the National Winner of the African American History Special Prize for her website, “The Vietnam War: A Turning Point for Black American Rights.” She also came in 6th place in the Nation in her category.

Hong stands with medal around her neck and an envelope in her hand

North Carolina Humanities’ support of N.C. History Day is made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, whose National History Day® initiative strives to support more educators, students, and judges from underserved communities. N.C. History Day is an official program of the N.C. Department of Natural & Cultural Resources. To learn more about National History Day and to see all final contest results please visit:

North Carolina Humanities thanks the N.C. Department of Natural & Cultural Resources for their partnership, and in particular, Karen E. Ipock, N.C. History Day Coordinator. North Carolina Humanities also thanks all the students, teachers, schools, libraries, archives, museums, community organizations and others who helped make N.C. History Day and National History Day a success in 2024.

About North Carolina Humanities: Through public humanities programs and grantmaking, North Carolina Humanities connects North Carolinians with cultural experiences that spur dialogue, deepen human connections, and inspire community. North Carolina Humanities is a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. To learn more, visit

North Carolina Humanities Press Contact: Melanie Moore Richeson; (704) 687-1520;

All Photos and Contest Result Descriptions Courtesy of the N.C. Department of Natural & Cultural Resources.