Rees NHD Project Displayed at Smithsonian

Trey Yamamoto, Reporter

    To most people, National History Day (NHD) may just be another school project, research paper or slide-show presentation — for Senior Reagan Gayle Rees, NHD has extended her message to a broader audience by giving her the opportunity to display her project at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Rees’s exhibit entitled “World War II Wonder Drug Triumphs Over the Tragic Enemy in Your Pants” was showcased at the national museum on June 12, representing the state of Hawai’i in this program. 

       “When I found out my project was selected to be displayed at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History I was actually kind of shocked. There was so many amazing projects that came from Hawai’i, so the fact that I was chosen to represent the state was very exciting. I was honored.” said Rees.

       As of last year, Rees’s project has been one of only three projects from MHS that has been displayed at a museum on the National Mall. In order to have moved onto the later stages of the competition, Rees had to prepare herself mentally for all aspects of the competition. “The mindset that all NHD contestants should have is that each project is unique and each year the level of creativity and information in projects is getting more complex. Also, just enjoy the experience,” said Rees. Social Studies teacher Amy Boehning added, “You also have to come with an open mind. If you come in and you think that you already know the answer, and that’s what you’re going to tell the world, without completing the research, without exploring other places, it’s going to be a weak project. When you have an open mind and you’re willing to listen to many different sides of the story, it allows you to then create a unique topic.”

      Another important aspect of having the right mindset is one’s willingness to work hard. Rees needed to work responsibly as well as put in much time and effort in order to display an intriguing and unique exhibit. “It really was about her work ethic, responsibility, taking initiative to get things done on time and in a timely fashion. For me, I only give suggestions that’s all I can do. I can give recommendations and suggestions for students, and what students take from the recommendations and they run with it and they make a design. The design for her project, the colors, everything she did came from her and making her own decisions. And so you have to be an independent worker that’s self-directed to give yourself a schedule, give yourself deadlines to get things done and turned in on time,” said Boehning.

       With every project comes its fair share of challenges. Reagan’s project was no different than any other, facing her own set of problems. Problems ranged from revising the content of her project to being interviewed by the judges. “In my project I had a lot of propaganda posters about STDs, (and) the hardest part of any project is the credibility within the information you find. Everything you find must be unique and original. I was very blessed to have an amazing mentor throughout the process. Ms. Amy Boehning was so generous and kind, I wouldn’t have made it as far as I did if it wasn’t for her help,” said Rees. “The interview during nationals was (also) really challenging. Since my board was strong in terms of information the judges asked me questions of information that wasn’t on my board. They were seeing how broad I am with my topic and it was honestly super tough. The judges were very nice but it definitely taught me a lesson to go over things online and find info that wasn’t necessarily pasted onto my board. You can never learn too much information.”

       For Rees, her experiences with NHD may not be over. In her last year at MHS, she has been considering competing again at NHD. “If I were to end up doing it again (NHD project) I would do a performance. I’ve been thinking about getting a couple of girls to join me and it would be more singing. The topic I’m most wanting to do is women singers in the 60’s. It would go through Aretha Franklin, Connie Francis, Leslie Gore, etc,” said Rees. 

       This year’s NHD theme is ‘Breaking Barriers’ as the district competition would be held again towards the end of February.