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

Another big year for Salk students at Minnesota History Day


APRIL 30, 2018—ELK RIVER, MN—The History Day program at Salk Middle School celebrated its tenth year this year, and once again, more than 500 students successfully completed an extensive research project on a topic of their choice and presentation of their choice.

Felicia Schall and Margaret Krueger outside Williams Arena after Minnesota History Day wearing their medals and thinking about how to prepare their project for nationals.

For the fifth year in a row, at least one of those projects will be advancing to the National History Day competition in Washington, D.C. For the first time ever, two projects are advancing–one from junior division and one senior division.

Junior Division honors go to Margaret Krueger and Felicia Schall, a team of 8th graders who researched, wrote and produced a documentary called The Love Canal: A Toxic Love Story. The film told the story of a massive environmental pollution disaster that took place in a residential neighborhood in the state of New York in the late 1970s. One result of the disaster was the creation of the federal Superfund program aimed at identifying and cleaning up industrial pollution.

Schall and Krueger conducted extensive research for their project including an interview with one of the lead advocates of the clean-up effort and Minnesota’s coordinator of Superfund projects from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

“They are a great team and we are really proud of how well they worked together to create an awesome documentary,” said their teacher Nikki Tripp. “It will be exciting to see how well they do at the national contest but the skills they learned and put to use already are the biggest accomplishment,” she added.

The Minnesota Historical Society and University of Minnesota are co-sponsors of Minnesota History Day

All of their work, from conducting research, to writing the script for their documentary, was completed on their school Chromebook as part of the new 1:1 initiative at all district middle schools. They also used a cloud-based video editing program called WeVideo. A total of 64 students at Salk completed documentaries this year utilizing these newly acquired resources–more than ever in years past.

Advancing to the national contest is extremely tough because only two from each category are permitted to advance. Across Minnesota a total of 27,000 students participated in History Day this year and a record 1,300 advanced to the state contest, held Saturday, April 28 at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. Schall and Krueger’s achievement puts them in a group that consists of the top one-quarter of one percent in the state.

They were part of Salk’s second largest team ever at state. “We bring all the students to the campus in January to conduct research, so it’s always neat for them to come back again in the spring as competitors,” Tripp said. This year’s theme was “Conflict and Compromise in History.”

Elk River High School Sophomore Advances in Senior Division

Isabella Krueger waiting to meet with the judges at MN History Day, held at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Isabella Krueger is a sophomore at Elk River High School who competed in the senior division of National History Day once again. All four years she has participated in History Day she has advanced to the final round at state for writing an academic paper. For the third time, she is advancing to the National competition.

“She joins a very elite cadre of students from Minnesota who have advanced that many times throughout the 38 years of History Day in Minnesota,” said Ron Hustvedt, Salk History Day coordinator and her History Day coach. This year her paper was titled The Conflict of Unwed Motherhood in the Post War Era: Utilizing Maternity Homes as a Compromise to Convert Women Back Into Feminine Roles.

She said she plans on participating in the contest once again as a Junior because of the scholarship opportunities offered by the University of Minnesota at the state level, and to have a chance at a four-year college scholarship offered at the national level. “History day has allowed me the opportunity to teach myself analytical, research, and writing skills I would never have developed in a traditional history or English class. It has also allowed me to discover my passion not only for history, but defending human rights,” she said.

Four Salk students take home $800 in prize awards

Brian Berg received an Honorable Mention along with a special prize for his documentary titled The Secret War in Laos: Uncovered. Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) awarded Berg their “Remembering the Vietnam War” prize as part of their yearlong commemoration of the Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War and to recognize the next generation of scholars and storytellers.

Berg conducted extensive research including interviews with several prominent Hmong professors from across the state. The prize brings Berg a $500 check for his hard work along with the potential for additional opportunities with TPT.

Kayla Vang received an Honorable Mention and a special prize for the one-woman performance she wrote and starred in called Hmong in Minnesota. The University of Minnesota’s Friends of the Immigration History Research Center and Archives (IHRC/A) selected Vang’s performance for their “History of Immigration” prize and awarded her $100 for her research and creativity.

Jack Flahaven also received a “History of Immigration” prize and $100 from the IHRC/A for his documentary titled The Independence of Croatia. This is the second year in a row that Flahaven has earned money for his documentary creating skills.

The fourth special prize winner from Salk was Sarah Minke. Her documentary titled Raphael Lemkin’s Fight Against Genocide was awarded the “Holocaust History” prize and $100 from The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas.

Additional honorable mention winners include: Catie Cramer for her exhibit titled Blood Diamonds of Sierra Leone; Madi Tveit for her exhibit titled Mental Asylums Exposed; Lilly Lassek and Addy Soukup for their website titled Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989; Olivia Ek for her documentary titled Dr. Walton Lillehei and his Compromise with Open Heart Surgery; Abby Kotila for her performance titled Henrietta LAcks and HeLa Cells; and, Benjamin Stout for his performance titled The Marshall Plan.


Salk’s History Day program among best in Minnesota

Most of the students from this year’s Salk NHD team!

With 46 students competing at the state level, Salk had the second largest number ofstudents competing of all schools across the state and was among the most awarded at the contest. What the school’s Social Studies teachers are most proud of, however, is the fact that the project is delivered to all 7th and 8th grade students. Teachers on that team include Tripp, Ron Hustvedt, Scott Glew, Starrsha Wolff and Maranda Cameron.

Salk History Day teachers (l to r) Scott Glew, Nikki Tripp, Starrsha Wolff and Ron Hustvedt

“The emphasis is on the learning and the utilization of valuable skills they will use in high school, college and life,” Tripp said. “Sure there’s a contest with the project, but we believe all students are capable of this work and are proud that almost all of the students who begin a project, successfully complete it and get to present it to the community,” she added.

“These students are truly inspiring,” said NHD Executive Director Dr. Cathy Gorn. “National History Day challenges students to analyze and interpret historical primary and secondary sources, draw a conclusion about the significance of their topic, and then be able to present their findings and answer unprepared questions related to the subject. It shows how powerful this program is for students.”

For more information about Salk’s History Day program, including details on how you can help support the program next year as a volunteer judge  please visit my website or contact Ron Hustvedt by email

Margaret and Felicia (row two far left) are among the crew that will be Team Minnesota 2018 at National History Day, held at the University of Maryland College Park near Washington, D.C.