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From left, Lee Wilson, Claudie Thompson, Isaac Beck, Elizabeth McDonald, Kylee Jones, Dayna Jones, and Alicia Beck celebrate at the national NHD contest.

FOR THE BECKS, NHD IS A FAMILY AFFAIR

WHO: The Beck Family
WHERE: National History Day State and National Competitions
WHEN: 2023
CONTACT: New Mexico History Day State Coordinator, Stephanie Wilson, HistoryDay@NMHumanities.org.

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At the 2023 New Mexico State National History Day contest, four brothers from Silver City took home first place medals: Anson Beck in senior group website, Isaac Beck in Senior Group Documentary, Joshua Beck in Senior Individual Documentary, and Jonathan Beck in Junior Group Website. Isaac and Joshua both went to finals at nationals, with Isaac sharing the prestigious History of U.S. Marine Corps award with his group, and Joshua receiving the Senior Outstanding Affiliate Award. How does one family achieve so much in NHD?

The family first became involved in NHD when oldest brother Avery had Dayna Jones at La Plata Middle School. Mrs. Jones helps students explore their passions and determine the best way to present them, Alicia said.

The winning ways the family now enjoys were not immediate, though. Avery’s first year proved challenging as he struggled to understand some NHD requirements like multiple perspectives. He faced tough judges and came away from his first regional contest feeling awkward. However, “sometimes our failures are our greatest success,” Alicia said. The challenges “just motivated him even more.” In fact, Avery’s senior year, partnered with younger brother Anson, they took 4th place at nationals.

Along with NHD, all of the Beck children play soccer, play an instrument (piano at least through mid-school – they can switch from piano to band after that), and attend their church youth group. Alicia tries to find a balance between allowing her kids to find their own ways and helping to motivate them without pushing too much. She sees her role as an NHD parent as a provider of ideas and suggestions, ensuring topics are tied to the theme and probing whether the search for primary sources is really complete. She admits, “it does get crazy” in their house as NHD contest time approaches and everyone is working on projects.

For the Becks, defining success is not just winning or bringing home medals and awards. “It’s the effort and who we are becoming in the process,” Alicia says, adding that she, her husband, and her kids are all competitive and have high expectations. “If we’re going to do it, do it well and do your best. Take pride in your work.”

Alicia has high praise for the NHD program, pointing out that students learn so much more than history. They learn public speaking skills, research skills, evaluation of sources, teamwork, and how to write better. “Their experience in NHD has really benefited them as people,” she said.

The Beck family is one reason the Silver City NHD program, under Claudie Thompson and Lee Wilson at Silver High, along with Dayna Jones, has become such a powerhouse in the state. (Their NHD competitors may be chagrined to hear that the youngest Beck, Katelyn, will be coming along soon!)

As for the 2024 contest, Alicia hopes her boys will continue to learn and make connections to history that they love. “You have to enjoy it,” she tells them.

The 2024 contests will be:

Southern Regional
Las Cruces at the Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum on Friday, February 23rd

Northwest Regional
Farmington at San Juan College on Friday, March 1st

Central Regional
Albuquerque at the National Hispanic Cultural Center on Friday, March 8th

State
Albuquerque at the University of New Mexico on Saturday, April 13th

For more information, contact Stephanie Wilson at: HistoryDay@NMHumanities.org.

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NATIONAL HISTORY DAY

Helping student historians and their teachers study the past to inform the present and shape the future.

ABOUT NATIONAL HISTORY DAY® (NHD):

NHD is a non-profit organization based in College Park, Maryland, that seeks to improve the teaching and learning of history. The National History Day Contest was established in 1974 and currently engages more than half a million students every year in conducting original research on historical topics of interest. Students present their research as a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, or website. Projects compete first at the local and affiliate levels, where the top entries are invited to the National Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park. NHD is sponsored in part by, HISTORY®, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Park Service, Southwest Airlines, the Crown Family Foundation, The Better Angels Society, the Pritzker Military Museum and Library, and the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation. For more information, visit NHD.org.

ABOUT NATIONAL HISTORY DAY® IN NEW MEXICO:

History Day in New Mexico is open to elementary, middle, and high school students statewide. The program is organized and sponsored by the New Mexico Humanities Council. NMHC offers online and in-person professional development for teachers as well as student events.