Hello, my name is Michelle Lokken. This past school year I was a senior at Oshkosh North High School. Recently, on June 11th-15th, I went to the University of Maryland to compete in the national level contest for National History Day. I presented my documentary on the Oshkosh Woodworkers’ Strike of 1898.
National History Day is an academic enrichment program dedicated to improving the learning and teaching of history. This program is structured as a tiered contest containing regional, state and national levels. To compete in this contest, middle and high school students make a project on any historical topic of their choice. The project can be a paper, website, documentary, performance, or an exhibit. Even though the topics can vary, all projects must connect back to an annual theme. This year’s theme was “Taking a Stand.” In Wisconsin, nearly 10,000 students made projects but only 36 advanced to the national level. My project won at state, qualifying me to go to the National Contest in Maryland.
Even though it’s called National History Day it is really more like history year. I first became interested in the Oshkosh Woodworkers’ Strike during my junior year (2015-2016), when my English teacher assigned an Oshkosh research paper. My security job at the Paine Art Center already had me interested in learning more about the Paine Lumber Company’s history. The Woodworkers’ Strike was an appealing topic because of my fascination with both the Paine and labor history. When the paper was done, I still wanted to know more. At the end of my junior year, I noticed that the National History Day theme for my senior year would be “Taking a Stand”. I immediately knew that the Oshkosh Woodworkers’ Strike of 1898 would be the perfect topic. Then, in October of 2016, I got to work preparing a documentary for the regional contest in February. My documentary was successful at the regional level which qualified me for the state competition in April. Between competing, participants are allowed to make improvements, of which I did. At the state competition, my documentary was again successful making me a Wisconsin finalist for the national contest.
Nationals was an amazing experience. I enjoyed meeting students from across the country that had a similar interest in history. Having a local topic I was unsure how my documentary would rank against my competition. Many competing documentaries covered national or international topics. My project was received well by the judges. With 99 competitors, in the category of individual documentary, in the high school division, I made it to the finals round. Out of 100 entries, I made the top ten and ended up ranking 5th in the nation.
Being selected to go to the contest was a great honor and I wanted to pursue this opportunity. Since my travel and lodging expenses were not provided for, I reached out to the community to seek sponsorships. Fortunately, The Winnebago County Historical and Archeological Society sponsored me. Their generous donation helped pay for gasoline and lodging fees that it took to make going to nationals possible. I am so grateful and honored to have been sponsored by an organization that cherishes the history of Winnebago County. Truly Winnebago County has the utmost fascinating history. If you are interested in watching my documentary you can find it with this link https://youtu.be/-jMJAmRqMRM