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Columbia Academy Student Wins First Place in National History Day Competition

Truc working on her History Day website. Columbia Academy (CA) student Thanhtruc (Truc) Mai was awarded first place in the website category of the National History Day competition. This year’s tournament happened virtually which presented some differences. Instead of the normal “bring your work to the competition and await results,” students had a deadline to submit their work virtually.

“History Day is a big deal at Columbia Academy. We have been well represented at the State Tournament each of the past five years. Our coaches do an amazing job working with our students over many months including many hours after school and on weekends,” said CA Principal Duane Berkas. “Truc is our first national qualifier and to have her win first place from competition across the country is just amazing. She makes us very proud!”

“I was quite confounded [when I found out I had won first place]. I didn’t really believe I won,” said Mai. “I became quite excited and was very proud of myself.”

Mai didn’t watch the ceremony – she was reading an e-book at the time. CA Teacher Chris Mason tried to call Mai, but she figured it was a spam call. Next thing she knew, Mason had gotten ahold of Mai’s mom and let her in on the news. “[My mom] came in and said Truc you won first place! Then ran out of the room screaming! They were very excited.”

The topic of Mai’s website is Oyama v. California a court case from 1945 confronting alien land laws.

“It focused on discrimination because of race. I wasn’t surprised… I knew there was discrimination and even though it got better it still existed,” said Mai. “When learning about the topic I was able to make more of a real-life connection with what is happening [in our society] now.”

“Since we started working on History Day last November, Truc's commitment to her topic and determination to thoroughly research it never wavered. At each level of the competition, she further clarified the events surrounding the Oyama case and its impact in our history. She continued researching, rewriting and creating her website with a smile,” said Mason. “Truc is so deserving of this national recognition of her amazing work!”

Mai says the topic of history in and of itself doesn’t spark her interest, but enjoys discussing it in school and learning about what has happened in the past. She said studying this case specifically has impacted her consideration of becoming a lawyer and studying law and civil rights cases in the future.

View Mai’s winning website at To view the National History Day online competition, visit (Mai’s portion is near the one-hour mark).

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<p><a href="">Thanhtruc Mai - National History Day Winner</a> from <a href="">Columbia Heights Public Schools</a> on <a href="">Vimeo</a>.</p>