It is not just the thrill about making it to state competition for four Donna High School seniors. It is the messages they learn along the way that impact their lives in a big way.
DHS History and Government Club members Bryan Cardenas, Joel Guerrero, Lizvette Hernandez and Sarah Delgado will head to Austin April 29 to compete in the National History Day contest. The group is representing South Texas high schools after winning the regional title in early February. “I’m so proud of the students,” Social Studies Teacher and club sponsor Juan Carmona said. “They worked very hard on their project. I see a lot of potential in them and how much work they put into it. It was a lot of work.”
Joel Guerrero helped lead the team. “It’s very scary presenting our work to people who are very knowledgeable about things we’re presenting,” Guerrero said. “But I think we were prepared. The judges liked our project enough to declare us winners. They also gave us tips about where we need to improve and what needs to be stressed. So as far as being prepared for state, we are. I think we’re going to do really well there.”
This year’s contest theme is Taking a Stand in History. The intentional selection of the theme is to provide an opportunity for students to push past the antiquated view of history as mere facts and dates and drill down into historical content to develop perspective and understanding.
The DHS students selected a project they called the Edcouch Walkout: A Struggle for Equality. In a 10- minute documentary, the group used old pictures and video footage to tell the story of 175 Edcouch-Elsa students who walked out of their classes on November 14, 1968. The young Mexican-Americans took to the streets because they were tired of being ignored when they would voice their concerns about school policy. The mostly Anglo school board suspended the protestors but the students were eventually readmitted into class after a lawsuit was filed that proved the board was in violation of the United State Constitution. (Click to view “Edcouch Walkout: A Struggle for Equality” Documentary )
“I really enjoy messages about people standing up in protest of something because that’s really them calling people out on their obscurity and ignorance,” Guerrero said. “A lot of times we ignore things or don’t like to say things because we’re scared or we have anxiety about people calling us out too. It was really interesting seeing how the students struggled to get their messages across that they weren’t going to be pushed around anymore.”
The students took the project to heart. “It’s a lesson that needs to be remembered because it’s going to keep coming up over and over again,” Guerrero said. “People are always going to want to put you down but you’re going to have to stand up for yourself like these kids did. I was big on the civil rights part and the fact that they were standing up to the Anglos.”
“I think it’s great that what happened back then affects us now,” Bryan Cardenas said. “There are so many things that they didn’t have that we now have because of what they did. One of the things they fought for was a Mexican-American History class. We finally got the class last year.”
The students are putting the final touches to the project to get it ready for state competition, which will be held at The University of Texas at Austin and the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin. “I believe that this is a really good topic,” Guerrero said. “It’s displaying what taking a stand means and I think at the end of the day the judges are not only going to look at how our project is presented and how well we know it but also the essence of the topic.”
“I told them that the project will stand out because no one hardly ever hears about it,” Carmona said. “it’s reality and it happened right here in the Valley.”
Students who place first or second at the state contest will advance to the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest in June at the University of Maryland at College Park.