Coupeville student takes a first at National History Day

Riley Borden shows some of the props she used in the project that earned her first place award at the National History Day competition.  - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Riley Borden shows some of the props she used in the project that earned her first place award at the National History Day competition.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

A Coupeville-based home schooler recently earned a national award for efforts documenting an aspect of Native American history.

Riley Borden, who finished sixth-grade at the Oak Harbor School District’s HomeConnection program, earned first place in the National History Day’s Junior Individual Performance in June at the University of Maryland.

Her 10-minute performance was entitled, “Indian Boarding Schools: A Revolution Against Native American Culture,” which she developed from research from primary sources and interviews with people who attended such schools which operated from the 1880s to the 1940s.

“It’s quite an honor to get first place in the nation,” Riley said.

Her performance marked the first time Borden participated in the competition. She got the idea for her show from a book she read, “My Heart is on the Ground: The Diary of Nannie Little Rose, a Sioux Girl,” by Ann Rinaldi.

“It thought that would be a real interesting topic,” Borden said, describing her project as a very dramatic performance. She developed three characters in her one-person show: a narrator, a government official and a Native American child forced to attend a boarding school.

She wrote and memorized her script and created costumes and props based on the research she conducted throughout the school year. Once her performance was complete, she had to go through a question-and-answer session with the judges. Those sessions often lasted longer than the presentation.

Borden had to advance through several competitions before heading to nationals. She performed before the HomeConnection principal and several community members in February; she competed in the regional competition at Western Washington University in March; and she took second in state at Bellevue Community College in May.

The top two places in each History Day category go on to the national competition. Students in junior high and high school develop exhibits, write papers, and organize websites in addition to performances.

Borden competed against students from all 50 states as well as from such places as China, American Samoa and Singapore. More than 2,800 students competed in the National Competition.

With her victory, she earned a $1,000 award.

She is planning to continue her studies through the Oak Harbor School District parent partnership program. As for creating another project and competing in National History Day next year, Borden said she isn’t so sure. It was a lot of work and it may distract her from ballet, which she travels to Seattle to perform.


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