13-year-old KMS student wins second in National History Day contest

Andrew Simon’s T-shirt says ‘History is not for wimps.’ He should know: His paper on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline won second place in the National History Day competition in Maryland.   - Contributed
Andrew Simon’s T-shirt says ‘History is not for wimps.’ He should know: His paper on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline won second place in the National History Day competition in Maryland.
— image credit: Contributed

KINGSTON — When Andrew Simon stepped onto the hardwood in Comcast Center at the University of Maryland, all eyes were on him. Cameras focused in, and the Jumbo-Tron showed his every movement. However, Andrew wasn’t there to play basketball.

The 13-year-old Kingston Middle School student was recognized June 13 for his research paper “The Trans-Alaska Pipeline: A Struggle for Balance,” during the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest. Andrew finished second in the nation in the Junior Paper category. The national contest was held June 9-13.

Andrew’s paper competed against more than 90 other papers at the national level in the category, according to KMS English/Social Studies teacher Mary Lou Macala. Between the regional, state and national levels, Andrew’s paper was judged along with more than 1,000 other papers.

“I was unsure of making it to nationals, because I didn’t know what I was competing against,” Andrew said. “Second was a big surprise.”

For his second-place finish, Andrew received $500. He, his peers, and Macala also got the opportunity to tour Washington, D.C. and meet Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Bremerton.

Andrew was recognized for his accomplishment during the June 27 North Kitsap School Board meeting.

Andrew’s 2,500-word paper covers the issues and debate over oil in Alaska,  from the discovery of the Prudhoe Bay oilfield to the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the Keystone XL project.

Andrew’s interest in Alaskan oil was sparked by his father, Andy, and mother, Becky. Mr. Simon worked for the Atlantic Richfield Company. Mrs. Simon grew up in Alaska during the construction of the pipelines. From there, Andrew “really got energized and dug into” the topic, Mr. Simon said.

Andrew spent eight months on the paper, which included research, writing, and editing multiple times. Andrew estimated he spent 50 to 100 hours on the paper. He worked on the paper over spring break and on many late nights, Mr. Simon said.

“It was a labor of love,” Mr. Simon said.

Getting to the national level meant being interviewed by judges at the regional and state level, and then making revisions. At the national level, Andrew was interviewed by a panel. One of the most difficult tasks, Andrew said, was editing the paper to the 2,500-word maximum.

Andrew’s parents cheered him on the entire way.

“He was a rock,” Mr. Simon said of his son’s composure throughout the endeavor.

Entering the contest is not required for class. However, Macala encourages her students to enter and use the research skills they learn in class. She even takes students on field trips to the University of Washington Library and Seattle Public Library.

More than 40 of Macala’s students submitted projects to the regional competition, which is held at Olympic College in March. Of those that submitted projects, 15 of those students participating at regionals went to State, which was held at Bellevue Community College.

Works by five other KMS students were judged at nationals: Lian Boltwood, website project, “Edward R. Murrow: Radio Broadcasting’s Lasting Pioneer”; Maeve Boon and Grace Musselman, group documentary, “The Montgomery Boycott”; and Elizabeth Ramirez and Xander Robertson, group website, “Retaining the Right to Fish: The Boldt Decision.”

Lian finished first at State. Xander and Elizabeth took second at State. Maeve and Grace took second at State.

Macala helped the students with research and proper note-taking, outlines, and other elements to writing a history paper.

Macala has never had more than two students participate at the National level, she said.

Andrew was given the silver medal for many reasons, including a balanced report, strong context, good quotes, good discussion, and format, among other elements, according to Macala’s reading of judge’s comments.

“This should be read by everyone involved in the Keystone XL discussion…” Macala said, quoting a judge’s comments. This was the second time Andrew entered the contest and he plans to enter again next year. He would like to take first at nationals, but the contest is unpredictable and “there’s also some luck involved at that level,” he said. Unpredictability includes different judges and never knowing what papers will be entered.

The Simon family is still enjoying Andrew’s success this year.

“We’re still kind of letting it soak in,” Mr. Simon said. — ONLINE: Watch Andrew receive his medal on YouTube (Andrew and Mary Lou Macala at 1:7:11):


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