Out of Left Field: A special History Day on Long Island

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Of course, every day is history day on Long Island.

However, one of the lesser known distinctions of “America’s First Suburb” is the annual demonstration of remarkable historical analyses by Nassau and Suffolk students (several of them are pre-teens).

For nearly four decades, Hofstra University has served our two counties by hosting and organizing Regional History Day competitions.

The students who receive awards at Hofstra go to the state competitions at Cooperstown.

From there, the best of the best strive for National recognition at the University of Maryland.

Until three years ago, I had the privilege of directing this project for Hofstra.

Now, I serve as one of more than a hundred judges to evaluate the competitors.

Even with 60 years of teaching experiences, I continue to be dazzled by what our Long Island youngsters can do — both in terms of the creativity of their projects and the sophistication of their analyses.

All credit to the present generation and their mentors.

They provide encouragement for our nation’s future because they are light years more advanced than I and my cohorts during the 1940s and 50s.

Specificity regarding our current students and teachers will be the focus of my next column.

Here, I want to say more about the History Day process and the challenges it poses.

The annual challenge for organizing and conducting a day that now involves more than 1,000 people, warrants a “shout out” to folks who have enhanced our region and helped to launch our students.

Months of planning and coordination are required; parents and children see almost nothing of this.

At Hofstra’s apex is University Relations Vice-President Melissa Connolly, who has been a maestro in orchestrating talent on and off campus.

Dr. John Staudt is Hofstra’s academic coordinator.

He teaches social studies at The Wheatley School in Old Westbury; Hofstra is fortunate to engage him as a distinguished adjunct history professor.

Connolly’s chief on-campus event coordinator is the highly engaging Denise Deputy.

History Day never would have begun without the initiatory leadership of Hofstra alumnus Richard Marks; he was Long Island’s catalyst for decades.

To Richard’s everlasting credit, he recruited Robbie Harte, another Hofstra alumnus, to serve as chief judge and to manage most of the administrative tasks until Melissa’s office accepted those challenges.

Hofstra and Long Island owe huge thanks to Robbie for how hard and how effectively she worked for decades.

Richard was also highly successful in attracting to Long Island History Day a person who is continually sought by other groups because of the brilliant and creative leadership she provides for Long Island.

Susan Glaser may be a retired school librarian, but there is nothing “retiring” about the initiatives she has led to increase the numbers and quality of participation.

If we made an athletic analogy, other groups would be trying to get Susan to “play out her option” at Hofstra so they could seek her talents for their groups.

I want to emphasize here that neither Susan, founder Richard, or Chief Judge Emeritus Robbie have ever received any compensation for their many years’ of service to our region.

They are quintessential models of folks who are willing to contribute their time, talent and energy for public good on Long Island.

An extra bonus for all these years is that Susan’s husband Roy also serves every History Day as a volunteer (from 7:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m., to say nothing of all Susan’s months of coordination).

Credit also goes to teachers and community leaders who have been serving on the recently expanded History Day Academic Advisory Committee.

I will say more about them and about our exceptional students in my next column (many of them reside in the communities that are served by Blank Slate Media).

For now, permit me to give a bit more information about National History Day (if you want more data or to explore how your student or school can be involved, go to the site:

https://www.nhd.org/)

Each year, National History Day has a theme that informs the competitions.

For 2017, the theme was: “Taking a Stand in History.”

Students compete in five categories: papers, documentaries, performance, websites, and tabletop exhibits.

Except for papers, the other four categories can be either individual or group.

Participants are divided into Junior (grades 6-8) and Senior (9-12) divisions.

For information on students, teachers, winners and New York State finals, please check my next column.

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