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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Brighton student takes third at national history fair

Sep 14, 2018 01:26PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Brighton High’s Kelsey Hagman won third at the National History Day Fair with her website, The Kansas-Nebraska Act: Compromise Turned to Conflict. (Photo courtesy of Kelsey Hagman)

By Julie Slama | [email protected] 

Not many people are familiar with the decisions to leave slavery as an issue to the territories’ popular vote in the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would eventually be a contributing factor toward the Civil War. 

But that conflict which led to the period of violence known as Bleeding Kansas is just one of the facts included on the senior individual website created by Brighton High’s Kelsey Hagman. That website, The Kansas-Nebraska Act: Compromise Turned to Conflict, was not only one of two state winners, but also received third place at National History Day Fair. 

Hagman’s classmate Jacob Simmons also was selected to advance to nationals in Senior Individual Documentary, with “Rabin of Israel: A Story of War and Peace.” 

After researching and preparing their projects to the theme of “Conflict and Compromise in History,” these students competed locally before advancing to state and nationals. The two traveled to Washington, D.C., in June, where they competed against students representing the top two entries in each category from every state, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, China, Korea and South Asia. 

It was Hagman’s first trip to Washington, D.C., after years of competing in history fair. The junior — now in her senior year — started in sixth grade researching Christopher Columbus and the discovery of the “new world.” The next year, living in Colorado, she advanced to state with her World War II women in the work force project to the theme of rights and responsibilities. In Utah in eighth-grade, Hagman received honorable mention with her first responders project to the theme of leadership and legacy at regionals before taking a break until this past school year. 

“I love history,” she said. “It’s kind of nerdy, but it’s really interesting. My grandma sent me a newspaper of when (President Richard) Nixon resigned and it’s framed on my wall.” 

Hagman, who had never been to Kansas before, wasn’t sure at first where to start researching for the theme. 

“I looked at senate and house transcripts and it was painful. They were one-inch binders full of court transcripts with words smaller than miniscule of people talking, and since they were from the 1800s, it was all blurry. But I gained a lot of content and looked to narrow it down to the period of time when it worked its way to the Civil War,” she said. “I read newspapers to understand where each side was coming from and what people were going through. A lot of the editorials were really funny; I wish they were written that way today.” 

She chose a website for her project amongst the choices offered, such as a paper, documentary, exhibit or performance.

“It was easy to narrow it down. I don’t like performing; I like to write, but wanted to include photos; I don’t like my voice on film so I eliminated a documentary; and I already have done an exhibit before, so I thought I could see what I could do in the website category,” Hagman said. 

She delayed traveling with others to Washington, D.C., because she was participating in Girls State — “I learned perspective and to always to give everything a try because the worst thing you can do is lose” — but she and her mother were able to see some sites: National Archives, Mt. Vernon, Smithsonian museums, capitol and Newseum amongst others.

At the national competition, she talked to some of the 3,000 middle and high school students who participated in the fair about their projects as well as answered questions posed by the judges about her website. She told her parents not to come because it was her first national competition so she was sure she wouldn’t win. 

“I told my mom not to come to the awards ceremony because I really didn’t expect to win. The website was announced last and it was an excoriating process. I thought I was going to throw up when they said my name. I just couldn't believe I was announced as a winner. I just freaked out. My website now is on their server as an example of a winning website. I’m most excited about that and hoping other people can learn from it,” she said. 

Hagman received $250 for third place plus a medallion. 

However, she isn’t just sitting back relishing her accomplishment. This summer, Hagman already was researching ideas for this year’s theme: “Triumph and Tragedy in History.” 

“I’ve learned a lot through history fair. Coming into high school, I already knew how to do a bibliography and research because of history fair. It has helped me understand how to write a paper, develop a thesis, make an argument and support it. I like connecting the themes into my research and making it personal,” she said.