Interview: Real World History Student Wins 1st Place at NHD

At the DC National History Day this year, three Real World History students won awards for their outstanding projects. Dimilah Jones from Ballou High School won first place for her individual exhibit about DC drug lord, Rayful Edmond; Maya Woods-Arthur from Washington Latin Public Charter School won second place for her research paper about the Attica prison uprising; and Emma Lawrence from Banneker High School won third place for her research paper about Karla Galarza, the young Mexican American woman whom the DC School Board expelled from Margaret Murray Washington School, a black vocational school, in 1947 because they considered her to be “white.”

The students’ projects connected to this year’s National History Day theme, Conflict & Compromise. The National History Day organization explains that they chose the theme “to provide an opportunity for students to push past the antiquated view of history as mere facts and dates and drill down into historical content to develop perspective and understanding.” The Real World History students created exemplary work that shined according to the contest’s goals. Each winner demonstrated expert research skills in their analysis and artful synthesization of information. The two students who earned first and second place awards, Dimilah Jones and Maya Woods-Arthur, will be advancing to the national contest at University of Maryland in June.

Inspired Teaching spoke with 1st place winner Dimilah to learn more about her experience in Real World History and crafting her individual exhibit for National History Day. As a part of the Real World History course, Dimilah connects her academic experience as a history student with real-world application as an intern at Anacostia Community Museum. Learn more about her transformative experience learning the skills of an historian:

Congrats on winning first place for an individual exhibit at National History Day in DC this year! Can you tell me about you experience researching and creating your project?

I was originally going to do a group project about a whole different topic, but mid-way I transitioned to an individual exhibit and it was difficult because I had to start over and redesign everything. It was better for me because I was actually interested in this topic. I really like learning about local history. I especially liked the topic I chose because of a personal, family connection with Rayful Edmond, and because now a days in my generation we see a lot of the same tactics that he used so I was able to relate it to present day. To research, I used a drug database where you can find interviews and I used a countless number of documentaries, movies, books, newspaper articles. It was a pivotal case so there were a lot of different interpretations.

The theme of National History Day is Conflict & Compromise. How did that theme orient your project?

When I first thought about the theme, I didn’t think it related, but as I researched the theme helped guide my project because I learned that Rayful Edmond made many compromises even though he seems conflict-filled.

How has your experience in Real World History been different than other learning experiences?

My experience was different because Mr. Hunt [the instructor] is actually an engaging teacher who makes learning fun for us. You can always access him, and that’s different. And the workload really gets us prepared for college because of how critical he is about grading, which is really unique. Different things we do in class–like having a video chat with authors of books–help us get to know that background of a topic. At the beginning of every class we do a game so we aren’t drained like we are in other classes and Mr. Hunt has us talk to kids in the class we don’t usually talk to, so we are better prepared and we know each other.

What has been the most meaningful part of participating in Real World History?

The most meaningful part is the information. Learning about the great migration helped me understand my people and why we had to move, and the effect that has had on us today. I’ve learned more in this class than in other history classes and I remember what we learn because the different ways Mr. Hunt teachers and the relationships the [Humanities Hub] teachers build. Mr. Hunt makes you go outside of your comfort zone in a way that assists in the development of students–and that is a priceless thing throughout the whole experience. The relationships let me relate to students i don’t normally get to talk to and I get to know different perspectives because we come from different parts of the city, different schools, and different experiences.

What are you most looking forward with the internship component of Real World History?

I’m looking forward to networking and getting pushed to new heights. I’m not used to working a job in such a critical environment because the Anacostia Community Museum is so big and has an impact. I have to challenge myself to meet the standard. I’m looking forward to gaining new experience.

[showmodule id="1045"] [showmodule id="140"] [showmodule id="141"]