Maine high school student wins national contest

Noah Binette, a freshman at Noble High School in North Berwick, Maine, has won first place for his exhibit about Malaga Island at the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day competition recently held at the University of Maryland.

Binette and forty-six other middle and high school students from Maine earned the right to compete in one of five categories at the national event based upon their performances at the state level. The state contest was held at the University of Maine in April. The top two finishers in each category were eligible to compete in Maryland.

Binette’s exhibit is titled “Malaga Island: The Commuinity That Maine Erased.” It focuses on forty-five mixed race residents who were evicted from their homes in 1912. Fueled by economics, racism, eugenics and politics, the State of Maine forced the relocation of Malaga Island’s inhabitants to the mainland, while also committing eight people to the Maine School for the Feeble-Minded. Years after the community was erased, descendants remained silent due to the stigmas related to mixed race and mentally handicapped people.

Binette competed against students from all fifty states, three territories and four foreign countries during the week-long event.  Aside from presenting his work to judges, Binette was also asked to exhibit his work at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.  He received his gold medal during the closing ceremony held at the Comcast Center at the University of Maryland on June 19, 2014.  He will also collect a $1,000 scholarship.  In addition, the American Historical Association has chosen Binette to present his work at the organization’s annual conference in New York City in January, 2015.

National History Day is a nationally recognized academic enrichment program promoting the study of history in schools. The program is modeled after science fairs and encourages students to take a creative approach to studying history. Participating students develop research papers, exhibits, documentaries, performances, or websites based on a topic they select connected to an annual theme. These entries are then evaluated by educators and people working in the field of history. The 2014 theme, “Rights and Responsibilities in History” encouraged students to explore many interesting topics related to local, state, national, and world history.

National History Day in Maine is a collaboration of the University of Maine, the Margaret Chase Smith Library, Maine Humanities Council and the Maine Historical Society.  A generous donation from Joe and Suzanne Cyr paid for the registrations of all Maine students at National History Day this year.  Next year’s theme is “Leadership and Legacy in History” and the state contest will take place on March 28, 2015 at the University of Maine.  The competition is open to all Maine middle or high school students.

For more information, contact State Coordinator John Taylor at john.m.taylor@maine.edu or 207-474-7133.