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February 16, 2012

National Humanities Medal Presented to National History Day Program

National History Day, a program supported by Colonial Williamsburg’s education outreach division, has been awarded the National Humanities Medal. President Barack Obama presented the award Monday, Feb. 13 at the White House. Dr. Cathy Gorn, executive director of National History Day (NHD), accepted the award on behalf of NHD. Colonial Williamsburg is the Virginia affiliate for National History Day, coordinating district competitions for more than 2,500 students in seven regions in Virginia and sponsoring the state competition in Williamsburg.

The National Humanities medals honor achievements in history, literature, education and cultural policy. This is the first time a K- 12 education program has been given the National Humanities Medal. The citation referred to NHD as “a program that inspires in American students a passion for history. Each year more than a half a million children from across the country compete in this event, conducting research and producing websites, papers, performances and documentaries to tell the human story.”

What began as a series of history contests originating at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, is today an international, yearlong academic program for sixth to 12th graders focused on historical research. NHD operates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and is expanding internationally in Europe, China, Indonesia and South Korea, serving more than half a million children annually with its unique approach to the hands-on learning of history.

The impact of NHD extends beyond the annual contest. A recent study found that students who participate in NHD develop a range of college and career-ready skills and outperform their peers on state standardized tests across all subjects – including math and science.

“Students have always told us how their NHD experience changed their lives, both in their academics and their careers. History not only teaches students about the stories of the past but is vital to creating a generation of young people who can apply these lessons to the future,” said author and journalist Cokie Roberts, a member of the NHD honorary cabinet.

Virginia History Day 2012 will be held at the Historic Triangle campus of Thomas Nelson Community College and Warhill High School in Williamsburg April 21. The competition will qualify the two top winners in each category to progress to the National History Day competition held at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., June 10 – 14. Judging for Virginia History Day begins at 9 a.m. with the finalists in all categories selected by noon. The theme for 2012 is “Revolution, Reaction and Reform in History.” More than 600,000 students in grades six through 12 from across the United States have entered this year’s competition at district levels, with more than 250 students competing at the state level in Virginia.

Whether from rural or urban area attending public or private schools, students apply the skills of a historian as they conduct research for projects they hope will take them all the way to the National History Day competition in June. During the 2011 National History Day competition, Virginians excelled in the national competition. Patrick Bond form Monticello High School in Charlottesville placed first in the nation in the senior individual performance category with, “One War at a Time: the Diplomacy that Saved Democracy,” and Walker Dorsey and Jacob Leffler from St. Patrick Catholic School in Norfolk won the special prize for the best World War II entry with their junior group exhibit entitled, “Bombs Away! The Debate that Brought About the Atomic Age.”

Tab Broyles, Colonial Williamsburg’s Peter L. and Patricia O. Frechette director of teacher development, has been Virginia History Day coordinator since 2001. For more information on how to participate in Virginia History Day, visit

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural institution dedicated to the preservation, interpretation and presentation of the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia. Colonial Williamsburg is committed to expanding its thought-provoking programming through education outreach on site and online. Purchase of Colonial Williamsburg products and services supports the preservation, research and educational programs of the Foundation. Philanthropic support by individuals, corporations, and foundations benefits the educational mission of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Media Contact:
Barbara Brown
(757) 220-7280