Alta student takes top honors at National History Day

Friday, May 18, 2012
Left to right, Governor Terry Branstad, Samantha Styler, Department of Education Director Jason Glass and Department of Cultural Affairs Director Mary Cownie at the National History Day in Iowa senior division contest at the State Historical Museum in Des Moines. / Contributed photo

Samantha Styler of Alta-Aurelia High School received top honors at the National History Day in Iowa contest. Styler joins a group of Iowa students who will compete against nearly 2,500 other students from the United States, Guam, America Samoa, Department of Defense schools in Europe, and Shanghai, China, June 10-14, at the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest at the University of Maryland.

Styler competed against nearly 270 other students in the senior division (grades 9-12) and received top honors for her entry, "The Stonewall Rebellion," in the Senior Individual Web Sites category.

The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations against a police raid that took place June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. They are frequently cited as the first instance in American history when people in the homosexual community fought back against a government-sponsored system that persecuted sexual minorities, and they have become the defining event that marked the start of the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.

Styler competed at the national level last year as well and looked forward to participating in National History Day again this year.

During a trip to New York this past winter, she was able to see the Stonewall Inn for herself; though she was not able to go inside, she was able to take photos which she thus used in her project.

National History Day is an academic-enrichment program that helps students learn about historical issues, ideas, people and events. The year-long academic adventure fosters students' enthusiasm for learning and encourages them to use primary, secondary, community and statewide resources on a subject of their choice related to an annual theme. The theme for 2012 has been "Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History."

Working individually or collaboratively in groups of two to five, students compete in the following categories: historical papers, individual and group exhibits, documentaries, performances and websites. Nearly 10,000 Iowa students competed in the program this year, with winners at school and district competitions advancing to the state contests in Des Moines.

Styler selected websites for the second year in a row.

"Computers interest me and I am able to use my creativity," she said. "If I don't do something I like, I'm miserable."

In addition to helping students discover the world of the past, the NHD program helps them develop the following attributes that are critical for future success:

* critical thinking and problem-solving skills

* research and reading skills

* oral and written communication and presentation skills

* self-esteem and confidence

* a sense of responsibility for and involvement in the democratic process

The NHD program in Iowa has been coordinated by the State Historical Society of Iowa, a division of the Iowa Department Cultural Affairs, since 1994 and is sponsored by the State Historical Society, Inc., and the History Channel. More information about NHD in Iowa is available at or by contacting Millie Frese at 515-281-6860 or