This year's National History Day's theme is turning points in history, and for the first time Jim Thorpe High School has been selected to host the regional National History Day competition - making the event a turning point in the school's history.
On Saturday, March 16, upwards of 300 students will be coming to JTHS from all over Region No.6: Luzerne, Schuylkill, Columbia, Carbon, Montour, Lehigh, Northampton and Northumberland counties, bringing exhibits, films, performances, and re-enactors to demonstrate their proficiencies in History.
The program is coordinated by Chris Holub and Ron Ellison, teachers and History Club advisors at Jim Thorpe High School, with the support of Bill Allison, a member of the Mauch Chunk Historical Society, on the board of the Mauch Chunk Museum, and a member of the Jim Thorpe Area School District Board of Education.
National History Day is a yearlong academic program focused on historical research for 6th to 12th grade students. It was awarded the 2011 National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony on February 13. The program culminates with a national competition held at the University of Maryland where the winners receive full scholarships to the university.
Until this year, the Region #6 competition had been held at the Penn State University - Hazleton campus. When PSU - Hazleton declined to host the 2013 event, Jim Thorpe High School offered to host the event, and their offer was enthusiastically accepted.
"The competition begins on a regional level," Holub explained. "Then it continues to the State level, and the winners at the state level compete on a National level at the University of Maryland. The students can create a project in one of five categories: a paper, a documentary film, a 10 minute performance, a display, or a website."
Up to five students may contribute to a project. In each of the five categories, first, second and third places are selected and can go on to the State competition. Therefore from each region, up to 75 students may go on to the state level from Region #6.
Jim Thorpe high school will draw its competitors, seven students, from its 20-member History Club, among whom History Club President Bronson Ford is presenting a documentary film on the Switchback Gravity Railroad, and Sophomores Elizabeth Strauss and Lauren VanEssendelft are creating a display on the Harlem Renaissance.
During the History Day competition, judging will be done in each category. When the student's projects aren't being judged, they will have the opportunity to view historical documentary films, beginning on the hour, in the auditorium; visit the Mauch Chunk Museum for a special guided tour beginning on the hour from 11 AM to 2 PM; or visit displays or mini encampments by Civil War and Revolutionary War reenactors.
Ron Ellison first suggested bringing the competition to Jim Thorpe High School. "The advantage of having it here is that it is centrally located, and it's all in one building." He also felt that the exposure to historic Jim Thorpe would add to the history theme and education of the students while helping to expose the borough more widely to the district. "It's a chance for people to see the town and to see our school. Hopefully, this will become an annual program."
"It is a great way for students with different types of skills and interests to take part in history," Allison said.
History Day is open to the public on Saturday, March 16 from 9 a.m.to 6 p.m.. Performances and documentaries may be viewed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Displays may be viewed from 3:15 p.m. to 4 p.m.. Times are approximate. The event is held at Jim Thorpe High School on Olympian Way in East Jim Thorpe.