The pandemic didn't deter a number of Tri-Valley students from advancing to the state level in several recent countywide annual academic competitions, including Alameda County History Day.
Students from Pleasanton and Livermore faced off against other youth representing districts from across Alameda County for the 2021 Alameda County History Day competition -- which was held virtually due to public gathering restrictions -- and showed off their academic finesse.
The March 13 event was held by the Alameda County Office of Education in a "salon" format, with students in grades 4 to 12 meeting online in small groups with a facilitator to discuss their projects. Aside from the use of modern technology, it was described as similar "to how people would share new ideas during the Renaissance."
Months were invested in creating in-depth projects such as websites, documentary films, visual displays, research papers, and performances based around this year's theme, "Communication in History: The Key to Understanding."
Topics included the 1918 flu, Ida Tarbell and ARPANET, the network which started the modern internet. Teachers and librarians pitched in with helping students research their projects, including a special workshop led by librarians at Cal State East Bay.
The projects were then evaluated by volunteer judges, who gave feedback and selected the top picks. Veteran History Day judge Al Minard was recognized at the awards ceremony for his 18 years of service and helping establish special awards for the event.
A total of 41 projects qualified for California's National History Day competition in May, including Vintage Hills Elementary students Zainab and Hafsa Firdaus in the Elementary Group Poster. Mendenhall Middle School students Saveta Holunga and Gabe Benitez took first place for in the Junior Group Documentary category, followed by classmates Scarlett Pann and Emily Wagner in second place, then Hart Middle School students Ella Fillmore and Emelyn Ogden in third place.
Fellow Mendenhall attendees Maleah Okamoto and Emiliana O'Hara won the Junior Group Performance category, while classmates Audrey Manley and Kylie placed first for Junior Group Website, and Isha Sahu and Vaishali Venkatesh took second place. Hart students Hima Etikyala and Naga Hasini Muppidi placed in third place for the same category.
Alice Graham from Mendenhall won for Junior Historical Paper, while classmate Hana Kriplani took third place, along with Amelia Mueller, Reese Ray and Max Leabman placing first, second and third for Junior Individual Documentary, respectively.
More Mendenhall students who excelled were Jamie Yi and Pierce Arizpe in first and second place for Junior Individual Exhibit, as well as Grace Heaney for Junior Individual Performance. Anna Van Essen and Ziad Mohammed claimed second and third place for Junior Individual Website.
Foothill High School team Arnav Gurha and Sarthik Parasa swept first place for Senior Group Documentary, and Elisha Therene from Granada High took home first place for Senior Individual Documentary.
The 2021 Philip A. Harley Memorial Mock Trial Competition took place in January and February, reaching its conclusion on Feb. 25 when Piedmont High School beat the Amador Valley High School team in the semifinals and earned a spot at the California Mock Trial Finals.
Although the Mock Trial and History Day were held remotely, ACOE officials said in a statement that the annual Spelling Bee will not take place this year.
"County spelling bees for elementary and junior high students were unable to move forward for 2020-21, as were state-level competitions," officials said. "We look forward to cheering on our spellers when the local bees return, and we hope to see some of our talented local spellers at the Scripps National Spelling Bee on July 8."