Hilldale High School senior Aislen Hensley didn't know of anyone else at her school competing in this year's National History Day contest.

But that didn't stop her from competing.

Hensley spent a week recently near Washington, D.C., competing in the NHD National Contest.  

She qualified by placing first in Individual Performance at the state NHD contest last May. Her performance, "Reflections into the Triumphs, Tragedies and Posthumous Legacy of Lt. Colonel John Laurens," also won the George Washington Leadership Prize – Washington Library at George Washington’s Mount Vernon at the state competition.

Two Muskogee High School students and four Tahlequah home-schooled students also qualified for the national NHS contest.

Kylie Gioletti, MHS, placed first at the state competition in Individual Documentary with "The Triumph and Tragedy of The Oklahoma City Bombing."

Catori Roberts, MHS, placed second in Individual Documentary with "Tragedy of Captivity."

Matthew Fleming, Trinity Fleming, Hannah Owen and Johnathan Owen of Tahlequah Catholic Homeschool placed second in Group Exhibit with "Blessed Stanley Rother: An Oklahoma Martyr." 

Hensley said she was the only Hilldale student ever to participate in National History Day.

"I'm hoping to see more people involved next year," she said. "I heard a few of my friends say they want to do a project."

Her project was about the life, death and legacy of Lt. Colonel John Laurens, a Revolutionary War veteran who also sought to abolish slavery.

"I wrote a 9 1/2 minute-long soliloquy and performed it in front of the judges," she said. "I have full Revolutionary garb, tall boots, the whole thing."

Hensley said she did not make finals at the national contest.

"But, I personally feel I did the best I could have done," she said, adding that she had performed in different spheres since she was 6.

"It was mostly just an adrenaline rush, and I was very excited to present information about a figure not many people know about," Hensley said.

She said she and her mother visited the Library of Congress earlier this week.

"Just to be surrounded by that much history, it was a little bit overwhelming," she said.

Hensley also spent time with the MHS contestants this week.

Gioletti's documentary about the Oklahoma City bombing features interviews with a first responder, a bombing survivor and Doris Jones, a mother who lost her daughter and unborn grandchild. She also talked to the attorney representing bomber Tim McVeigh.

"I started with trying to get stories from people who were majorly affected by the bombing," she said. "The most important thing I learned was that tragedies need to be remembered more in history. Through talking to Doris Jones, she told me how there's some people who don't even know about the bombing, and it shocks her every day."

Gioletti said this marks her second trip to National History Day.

Roberts said her documentary, "Tragedy of Captivity" focused on deaths of Seaworld animal trainers caused by killer whale aggression.

"Seaworld has many cameras in their habitat, so a lot of the incidents have been documented by those cameras, and by public cameras," she said.

She said she presented her video to judges and answered their questions.

"It was very exciting, but very nerve-wracking," she said. "It was my first time, so I didn't know what to expect, but I was very excited to have come this far."

Roberts said they toured the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and Smithsonian.

"It's a big learning experience to learn our nation's history in the capital," she said, adding that they've done "a lot of walking."

Two Muskogee Public Schools entries placed third at the Oklahoma competition, but did not advance to Nationals. Phuong Nguyen of MHS won third in Individual Website with "The Triumph and Tragedy of the Tuskegee Syphilis Project." In the Junior Division, Sadler Arts Academy students Rakiya Lang and Jaliyah Simmons placed third in Group Exhibit with "Wilma Overcomes." 

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