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Four Heritage Academy Gateway students earned the right to represent Arizona in the National History Day contest at the University of Maryland this summer.

Lauren Anderson and Victoria Smith, both competing at the national level for a second consecutive year, won first and second place respectively in the senior essay category.

Reylee Billingsley and Aidan Scott, also the top two finalists in their division, will represent Arizona in the junior essay category.

Each of these students spent months researching and writing historical papers that won both at the regional and state level in order to advance to the national finals in Washington, D.C.

Around the country, more than half a million middle and high school students are competing in National History Day contests. Students conduct rigorous historical research focused around the 2017 theme, Taking a Stand in History, and create a project in one of five categories: documentary, exhibit, paper, performance or website.

The top two projects in each category are invited to the National History Day Contest scheduled for June 11-15 at the University of Maryland in College Park.

“The annual theme provides a way to increase students’ historical understanding by developing a lens to read history,” according to National History Day Executive Director Dr. Cathy Gorn. “When we chose this theme a few years ago, we had no idea how relevant it would be in 2017.”

“Simply completing a National History Day Contest project is an accomplishment,” says Dr. Gorn. “But these students do so much more. They conduct original historical research and often uncover history that was unknown. They learn skills that will help them both in college and their careers. And above all, they develop a passion for learning.”

Congratulations to these excellent scholars who dedicated so much time and effort to produce these award winning projects. They will certainly do a wonderful job representing their school and community.

Heritage Academy — Queen Creek is at 19705 E. Germann Road in Queen Creek. For more information, visit

Editor’s note: Christie Higgins is a teacher at Heritage Academy — Gateway Campus.