WESTFIELD - History is fun for the Hoebener sisters of Westfield.
Haleigh Hoebener, a senior at Westfield Academy and Central School, took her History Day project to the state competition in Cooperstown this year. This is the last year she is able to compete.
Hannah Hoebener, her sister and a sixth-grade student at Westfield, also took her History Day project to the state competition in Cooperstown. This is the first year she is able to compete.
Hannah Hoebener stands in front of her project on the 1960 sit-in at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., with the certificates for first place in her category and best project in the junior division at the recent state competition.
Haleigh has excelled in the competition since she began competing five years ago as an eighth-grader. Each year, she has developed an individual exhibit and each year she has gone to the New York State competition in Cooperstown. Three times she has advanced to the national competition. This year her project Miranda v. Arizona: You Have the Right to Remain Silent" was awarded second in her category at Cooperstown. Miranda is the court case that impacted law enforcement by requiring police to inform suspects of their right to remain silent as well as their right to an attorney. Haleigh will spend time in the next few weeks redoing her exhibit to improve it for the national competition.
Hannah's project was "The Greensboro Four: Sitting Down to Stand Against Segregation." Her project dealt with the 1960 sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C. its historical context and its impact on the civil rights movement. She explained she has been interested in the Civil Rights Movement since she was in fourth grade and read a book about Martin Luther King Jr.
While Hannah did not advance to Nationals, her first project won first place in her category and was also awarded overall best project in the junior division for sixth through eighth grades.
According to Hannah, "This (the Greensboro Four sit-in) was so important because the media followed it and it got attention."
Hannah plans to compete again next year.
"Research is fun," she said. "The hard part is picking a topic because there are so many interesting topics."
Haleigh's research on Miranda served another purpose for her.
"I participated in 'We the People' and was able to incorporate my research for both. I did a better job for both," she said.
A 12-person team from Westfield, which included Haleigh, recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the We the People competition. While the team did not place in the top ten, she said, "We did OK." The experience was more than OK. Haleigh, who plans to attend the University of Texas in Austin, is now considering a career as a lawyer partly as a result of the experience.
"Those judging the presentations included state supreme court justices,'' she said. "It was an incredible experience. ... We were told that we know more about the Constitution than 92 percent of the general public."
Experience from both We the People and National History Day has helped Haleigh. Normally a quiet girl, she says, "I feel more comfortable talking about something I have researched."
Haleigh was surprised that Hannah chose to compete in National History Day. To her, it seems that Hannah enjoys science more. Hannah agrees that she likes science, but doesn't see herself competing in a science event.
Haleigh said, "We were in different divisions, so there was no direct competition." She is happy for her sister's success.
Hannah explained how Haleigh's experience helped her.
"I already had ideas about how to do things," Hannah said. "I had been at the competition with Haleigh."
While the competition is called National History Day it might as well be called National History Year. Right after this year's nationals, the theme for next year will be announced. Haleigh said that preparation for National History Day starts then. The process is to pick a topic, research it, develop the presentation board in the individual exhibit category, compete, refine the work for state, compete, and then, if going to nationals, refine it again.
Family vacations in Cooperstown and in Maryland have become routine thanks to National History Day. In June the family will be going to Maryland for the National Competition for the third time.
"Everyone is going but the dog,'' said Natalie Hoebener, Haleigh and Hannah's mother.