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Manatee County Students Traveled to the 2022 Florida History Day State Contest

More than 58,000 students in the state of Florida create National History Day projects each year, but only 782 middle and high school students advanced to this year’s state contest. Manatee County took four students who had completed two individual projects and one group project.

This year’s state contest was held at Tallahassee Community College on May 1-3 with top student entries from 28 Florida counties participating. The top two winners of each category are invited to represent Florida at the National History Day (NHD) contest in June.

The theme of NHD 2022 was “Debate & Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences.” Manatee County students brought a unique range of topics to Florida History Day from Women’s Wait for Liberty to the Debate over the Mental Health Stigma in Sports.

Exhibit board by 2022 State History Day team members Gabrielle Hotaling and Caitlin Keenan.

It all begins at the county level. Students entered the Manatee History Day contest held at their school earlier this year. Each school selected the winning entries to advance to the County Level for judging by community volunteers, guided by Manatee Village Historical Park staff.

These projects were judged according to rigorous academic standards. One of the most important criteria that judges consider is the students’ use of primary and secondary resources to analyze their topics and place them in historical context. This means that students have to make connections through history and demonstrate the long term impact of historical figures, events, or innovations.

This year, three projects produced by four students were selected to represent Manatee County at the annual Florida History Day state contest based on entry content, subject matter, and the amount of research conducted. Manatee Village Historical Park staff accompanied the Manatee History Day state team members and their families to the State capitol for the fast-moving three-day agenda.

Allyson O’Leary, Education Coordinator at Manatee Village Historical Park, served as Manatee County History Day coordinator. She worked closely with students to critique their work and help them build stronger projects. Along with volunteers, such as Manatee County Historical Commission members, she also coached students in preparation for the interviews required at the state competition.

Students faced off with competitors in their category and the highest scoring projects entered a second round of competition. On the last day of the contest, county coordinators, students and their families assembled for an awards ceremony to announce which students would move on to the NHD competition in College Park, Maryland, as well as to recognize the students that earned special prizes or scholarships for their research.

Congratulations to the entire 2022 Manatee History Day State Team. All students who participated gained a unique educational experience. Angel Potter of Lakewood Ranch High School took 3rd place in the Florida History Day state contest for her individual historical paper project “Mr. President, How Long Must Women Wait For Liberty?” earning her a spot as an alternate on the National History Day team. Angel also won the Outstanding County Award for her project.


The 2023 National History Day theme will be “Frontiers in History: People, Places, Ideas.” This competition is open to students in grades 6-12, with separate categories for the Junior Division (grades 6-8) and Senior Division (grades 9-12). In each division, there are seven contest categories which provide for individual and group projects in formats ranging from traditional written papers to dramatic performances, documentaries, and exhibits.

Florida joins 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, and international schools in East and South Asia as an affiliate of NHD, which was established in 1974. NHD promotes history in the classroom by offering students the resources and support to do original research about people, ideas, and events of the past.

Students who participate in the NHD program demonstrate more academic confidence than their non-NHD peers, according to a study conducted by San Francisco-based research firm Rockman, et al, that looked at performance assessments, surveys and standardized test scores to evaluate students’ research and writing skills, ability to interpret historical information, academic performance and interest in past and current events.

They also found that on nearly every measure, NHD students’ scores or ratings were higher than their peers who did not participate in the program. Students who participate in the program perform better on high-stakes tests, are better writers, more confident and capable researchers, and have a more mature perspective on current events and civic engagement than their peers.

For more information on this study, and what students gain from this competition, see: Learn more about National History Day at


Manatee History Day is sponsored by the Manatee County Historical Commission, Inc., and the Historical Resources Department of the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller, Angelina “Angel” Colonneso.

Returning this fall, Manatee History Day will lead History Day Club meetings to assist all interested students in researching, writing, and creating National History Day projects. The date and location of the first informational meeting will be announced later this summer.

Manatee History Day Club is open to all middle and high school students (public, private, charter, and homeschooled) interested in completing a NHD project. The group will meet monthly August through December. Meeting topics will include NHD project basics, selecting a topic, finding quality sources, storyboarding your project, and more. Schools, teachers, and students who are interested in participating should contact Allyson O’Leary at or call 941-749-7165.

Visit the Manatee History Day website to learn more about this contest:

Several local businesses, associations and individuals contributed to the 2022 Manatee History Day with donations for awards and expenses at the local level, as well as scholarship funds to help offset the cost for students traveling to Tallahassee to represent Manatee County.

Thank you to the 2021/2022 Manatee History Day Sponsors for their endorsement of this exceptional educational program: American Association of University Women, Doreen Colket, Manatee County Retired Educators Association, Mosaic, Osceola Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Pamela Gibson, William Bassett Chapter of Colonial Dames, and Women of the Manatee County Republican Club.

For more information about the benefits to students who participate in National History Day or for details on this contest, contact County Coordinator, Allyson O’Leary, Manatee Village Historical Park, 1404 Manatee Avenue East, Bradenton, Florida, 34208, email or call 941-749-7165.

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