Salk students are literally awesome at Virtual State History Day

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These nine students received special recognition at MN State History Day for their research and projects

MAY 4, 2020—ELK RIVER, MN—Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, this year’s Minnesota History Day went virtual rather than cancel and over 1,200 students from across the state, including 37 students from Salk Middle School, participated in this annual event. 

Those are the same numbers as you’d see in a normal year, speaking to the hard work and dedication by coordinators at the Minnesota Historical Society, Social Studies teachers at Salk, and the students who competed. Each of them took on a considerable amount of work above and beyond what’s typically expected–and the results demonstrated that commitment. 

The Salk student to take home the highest honors this year was sixth grader Ronny Hustvedt for his documentary called,“Restoring Natural Barriers: The Creation of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.”.

His 10-minute film on the controversy over the preservation of this wilderness area in northeastern Minnesota also received a Topical Prize. For his use of the Minnesota Historical Society Library and online sources in his project, Ronny Hustvedt received the “Best Use of Minnesota Historical Society Collections” Award and $200 from the Gale Family Library.

Seventh grader Lengxing Yang also earned a Topical Prize at State for his performance titled, “Hmong Journey to America.” The script he wrote, and performed, was about Hmong people escaping southeast Asia in the wake of the Vietnam War and included elements of his own family history. He received the “History of Immigration” Award and $100 from the Friends of the Immigration Research Center and Archives at the University of Minnesota.

Only the top four percent of all projects across Minnesota make it to the State contest and only the top one percent receive Honorable Mention. This year Salk had seven students earn this level of achievement. They include:

  • Melody Kpahn for her documentary on the fall of the Berlin Wall,
  • Ava Kallunki and Ady Bollinger for their museum exhibit on the Minneapolis Millerettes, a team in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, 
  • Kai Paulsen for his website on Apollo 11, 
  • Sajor Jalloh for her script and performance on the 1963 Children’s March in Birmingham, Alabama protesting segregation during a tumultuous summer, and,
  • Libby Kubicka and Abby Huselid for their script and performance on Harvey Milk, the first gay mayor of San Francisco and his impact on the national LGBTQ+ movement. 

The 37 students from Salk who competed at State, represented the nearly 500 students at Salk who successfully completed this extensive research project on a topic of their choice and presentation style of their choice. “Our focus is on teaching students skills like inquiry, source analysis, evidence based writing and giving them as many opportunities as possible to drive their own learning,” said Starrsha Wolff, one of Salk’s Social Studies teachers. “These are the skills they will use not only through their academic journeys, but for the rest of their lives.” 

Across the state, around 27,000 students from 250 schools participated in History Day with 1,200 advancing to the state contest held at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. This year’s theme was “Breaking Barriers in History” and students selected topics that fit one or both of the leading theme words. 

Not only do students select a topic, they conduct original research using resources from the school, the University of Minnesota Library System, interviews with national experts and individuals involved with their topic, and extensive searches through databases, archives and museums. “These students are incredible! They interviewed hall of fame athletes, professors, advocates, survivors, and heroes who actually lived through their topics” Wolff said. 

The 2021 History Day theme is “Communication in History: The Key to Understanding.” National History Day in Minnesota is a co-curricular historical research program that builds college readiness and communication skills for middle and high school students. It is a partnership of the Minnesota Historical Society and the University of Minnesota. Program support is also provided by the Legacy Amendment.

Details on that theme, along with more information on the Minnesota History Day program, can be found at or visiting Salk’s History Day website at A complete listing of the top History Day projects from Minnesota, along with all of the Topical Prize winners can also be found on the Minnesota History Day website.

Salk Students at State History Day 2020

Group Documentaries

  • Finley Mortenson & Anna Voigt
  • Hannah Leko & Ava Oblinger

Individual Documentaries

  • Kayla Christy
  • Ronny Hustvedt
  • Melody Kpahn

Group Exhibits

  • Leila Bakri & Olivia Riewe
  • Ady Bollinger & Ava Kallunki
  • Macy English & Brianna Sherman
  • Haillie McCartney & Maliyah Ritthirak

Individual Exhibits

  • Kendall Trost
  • Makayla Petz
  • Riley Sampson

Group Performances

  • Abby Huselid & Elizabeth Kubicka
  • Holly Narr & Olivia Smith

Individual Performances

  • Lamasajor Jalloh
  • Faith Wilkinson
  • Lengxing Yang

Group Websites

  • Elijah Lassle, Isaac Sydow & John Tran
  • Katana Bouathong & Molly Felgate
  • Paige Padilla & Allison Rinehart

Individual Websites

  • Samaira Khan
  • Kai Paulsen
  • Morgan Peterson
  • Jenna Weatherly
  • Lillianna Yang
  • Ella Olofson


  • Jillian Huntington

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