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Kingman student historians set high goals for D.C. competition

From left to right, 8th graders Izzy Flores, Natalie Taylor and Melyssah Hernandez (with Kenneth Posey in background) look at National History Day Competition displays Friday afternoon at Kingman Middle School.

KINGMAN - Two young historians at Kingman Middle School are eyeballing a third visit to the national History Day Competition in Washington, D.C., this year.

Last year, Avery Moon and Olivia Diaz took first place in the state and 10th place in the world at the competition with their exhibit on the 1973 Doxol explosion in Kingman.

"When I called and told them they had gotten 10th they told me, 'that's it?" said Ron Bahre, the technology teacher at Kingman Middle School.

This year they're aiming higher, he said.

"They (Moon and Diaz) told me they want to place in the top three in nationals," Bahre said.

Another student hoping for another chance at the national competition is Delaine Cencelewski, who came in third at the state competition in the Individual Junior Division Exhibit with "How the Railroad Built Kingman."

But the first steps start at Kingman Middle School.

The Kenneth E. Behring National History Day contest is open to students in grades six through 12. The students have their choice of how they present their project - as an exhibit, a documentary, a website, a paper or performance. They can work as individuals or in groups.

Students first compete at the school level, where their teachers pick the five best projects to go on to the regional event. This year's regional event will be held in Kingman on March 1. Regional winners go on to the state and possibly the national competition in Washington, D.C. Last year, more than 3,000 students competed at the national/world competition.

For the last two years, Moon and Diaz's projects have outshone their classmates and some older students at the regional event, but this year they have some competition.

Students from Kingman High School, Lee Williams High School, Kingman Academy of Learning, Black Mountain Middle School, Bullhead and Lake Havasu school districts are also competing for the regional title.

"I've seen some good projects out there," said Bahre, who has helped teachers at Black Mountain, Kingman High School and Lee Williams get prepared for their first History Day contests.

This year Moon and Diaz are focusing on the raid on Short Creek, Ariz. In July 1953, Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Arizona National Guard took more than 260 children from their families because their parents were part of a fundamentalist sect of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that believed in polygamy. The raid drew criticism from the media and the public.

In 1960, Short Creek was renamed Colorado City and the fundamentalist community formally established itself as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

"It's a tough subject," Bahre said. "Even the girls' mothers had a difficult time with it."


Cencelewski's project this year is on the Mohave Downwinders.

The Downwinders lived in Mohave County during the nuclear bomb testing in Nevada during the 1950s. In the 1990s, Congress passed a law compensating people who worked at federal nuclear test sites and residents in several states who lost crops, animals or family members due to the radioactive fallout from the testing.

While most of northern Arizona was included in the law, the southern half of Mohave County was left out of the compensation act, allegedly because of a typo, which changed Mohave to Mojave. Residents who lived in Kingman, Golden Valley, Bullhead and Lake Havasu in the 1950s and their families have been fighting to get Congress to include them in the act.

The girls are already planning what they will need to add to their project to make it place in regional competition, Bahre said. Each time a student moves on to another level of competition they have to improve their project in some way. They are also thoroughly grilled by the judges about their subject and why they chose it.

"I told them to expect some tough questions this year," he said. "Especially Avery and Olivia. I told them to expect questions on how their subject conflicts with their own beliefs in religion. They're ready for it."


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