Hewlett High students dominate New York History Fair

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Most sports fans are familiar with dynasties like football’s New England Patriots, baseball’s Yankees and basketball’s Boston Celtics. Somewhat lesser known is the New York State History Fair’s Hewlett High School.

Yes. Meet HHS sophomores Michael Heyman and Sydney Honig, who, as middle and high school students, won the competition in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.

In addition, Michael’s and Sydney’s older siblings, Madeline Heyman and Madison Honig, Hewlett High seniors, have been a part of the family dynasty as well, with all four collaborating this year on a senior group performance, “You Can Disagree Without Being Disagreeable: The Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Story.” The project captured first place in senior group performance and was selected to be highlighted by the National Women’s History Museum.

Michael’s and Sydney’s state wins qualified them for the National History Day competition each of the past four years. New York’s contests are typically held in upstate Cooperstown, the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the national competition is held on the University of Maryland campus. In the past two years, however, amid the pandemic, the events have been virtual.

“We are so humbled and appreciative that all our hard work, tremendous sacrifices and relentless pursuit of perfection in both our research and performance was admired, praised and rewarded by the outstanding national judges who are renowned historians,” Michael Heyman wrote in email.

In 2019, he and Sydney took first place at the national competition as well, and the following year they finished fifth. Participants, who usually number roughly 600,000 nationwide, assemble projects based on each year’s theme. Only .01 percent of the contestants make it to the national competition.

“This year-round project commences in the summer when we first receive the National History Day theme,” Sydney explained in an email. “Based on the theme, we do extensive research to try to find a perfect topic that fits and we can relate to as young adults.

We find as many primary and secondary sources to compile pertinent and reliable information. Thereafter, based on the information we gather, our script, interviews, props, costumes, staging, backdrop, worksheets, process paper and annotated bibliography, our performance comes to life.”

Competitions begin at the school level, move on to regionals and then statewide contests. In the Hewlett-Woodmere School District, Dr. Christine Abajian works with the students at the high school, and Kathleen Durney and Vincent Lospinuso guide students at the middle school.

“We emphasize the competition to encourage the students to conduct research that encourages a love of history,” said John Wimmer, the district’s social studies chairman.

Putting together these projects, Michael said, they have gained life skills and an original perspective on history. “We learned to work as a team to acquire an incredible amount of information that we find relevant to today’s current events,” he wrote. “The research and connections we made throughout these years has made a tremendous impact on our lives as young adults. It has influenced our perception of history, then, now and in the future, which we could never have learned from a textbook.”

The winning students’ parents, Rose and Fred Heyman and Alyssa and Elliot Honig, collaborated on describing their pride in an emailed message. “We would like to say that we are so proud of their commitment, dedication and determination to succeed,” they wrote of their student scholars. “We have always supported them as a team in their travels. They have each acquired unique skills that will serve them well in their futures. Their hard work has certainly paid off and it is truly rewarding to all of us.”

Madeline, Madison, Michael and Sydney have already begin working on their senior group performance project for the 2022 National History Day, and continue to count on their parents.
“Our parents have been extremely supportive of our endeavors,” Sydney wrote. “The countless hours they have dedicated to help us achieve our goals by accompanying us to the regional, state and national competition venues is indescribable. They have always encouraged us and have always been our greatest cheerleaders.”

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