Four students from Gahanna Middle School South are preparing to compete virtually in the National History Day competition June 14-20.

By placing second at the virtual Ohio History Day on April 25, South eighth-graders Dalina Houangvilay, Audrey Boyer and Julie Scherzer advanced in the website category for their project, "The Construction of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial: Breaking the Barrier of Architectural Norms," and eighth-grader Alyssa Warrick advanced in the paper category for "Beethoven: The Musician that Became An Inspiration by Breaking Barriers In His Own Life."

In preparation for Ohio History Day, 650 students from 100 schools spent six to eight months conducting research based on the theme "Breaking Barriers in History," creating historical papers, theater performances, documentaries, exhibits and imaginative websites as a result of their research.

Ohio History Day is an educational program for grades 4-12 that gives students the chance to become historians.

The first- and second-place winners of each of the five categories -- documentary, exhibit, paper, performance and website -- will compete in the national competition, with the third-place winner as an alternate.

This year, 36 high-performing students have been invited to advance in the competition, showcasing their work at the national competition.

South history teacher and team coach Cale Garber said he's proud of his students.

"Alyssa, Dalina, Audrey and Julie all poured their hearts into their work," he said. "Not only did they spend countless hours creating, critiquing and revising their work, but they really enjoyed the process."

Garber said they are all students of history and enjoy the lessons it has to teach them.

He said the entire team met Wednesdays after school, and each came with questions, research angles and ideas to investigate.

"It was fun to watch them explore their topics deeper and come to understandings," he said.

Dalina said she was in charge of writing the content for the website on Maya Lin and the creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

"It was my role to string the words together and try to form a story from our prior research that supports the theme of 'Breaking Barriers in History,' " she said.

Dalina said she's feeling nervous about nationals, but also proud.

To prepare, she said, the team is trying to collect even more research such as documentaries, interviews and other first-hand accounts to make the project stronger.

"The people at Ohio History Day are offering help to students, and so we have been asking for constructive criticism on our website, as well as from our coach, Cale Garber, who has also been offering us help and insight on our website," she said.

Audrey said she formatted the website.

"I put the words that we wanted to use into the website and made it into a comprehensive format," she said. "I split the information into sections for the website and created a design for it."

Audrey said she also picked which pictures would go best with certain parts of the website, created the pictures' citations and selected which quotes to add.

"I'm working hard to make our entry as strong as possible," she said.

Julie said she contributed the research and bibliography of the website.

"I found the sources and information needed to create our project," she said. "It's quite exciting moving on to nationals as my groupmates and I worked really hard on our work to make it the best we could."

To prepare for nationals, Julie is continuing to look for new and valuable sources to benefit the website.

Alyssa said she decided on the topic of Beethoven early in the process.

"I knew I wanted to do a musician, and originally planned on doing Freddie Mercury," she said. "My teacher thought it may be a more common topic this year, so I put him as my backup option, and went searching for musicians with lots of barriers in their life.

"Then I stumbled upon Beethoven from a video I remember watching in about third or fourth grade," she said.

Alyssa said her paper covers 13 pages, including six pages of essay.

"I have prepared for nationals by spending a lot of time going over my judging notes," she said. "They have amazing critiques that I have been able to fix in my paper, as well as one that gave me a book that I have enjoyed reading."

Garber said he's sure some of the students' success came from experience, as each student competed last year in the program.

"Each was able to use that experience as a building block, not get discouraged and apply that to this year's project," he said.

National History Day began in Cleveland in 1974 to give students opportunities to learn historical content and develop research, thinking and communication skills through the study of history, and to provide educators with resources and training to enhance classroom teaching.