Spring View students hooked on history

Pair participates in National History Day competition
By: Teresa O'Hanlon, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Natasha Szombathy and Geoff Leonhardt have earned national recognition praising their passion for the past.
Recent graduates of Spring View Middle School, both students took co-champion awards at the 2011 California History Day competition.
The honor earned the historians a spot with more than 2,700 competitors at the National History Day held in June at the University of Maryland.
History Day is an invitation to students in sixth through 12th grades to research a historical event and create a project for competition based on an annual theme. Students can present individual projects or work in small groups on a paper, exhibit, performance, documentary, or web site.
It all begins when students pick a topic of interest and seek out primary sources with letters of inquiry.
“That part is really fun for the students when they get the mail back. You’d be surprised at the various individuals, professors, who respond,” said Lynne Meiers, Spring View English and History teacher, who coordinates History Day for Placer County. “In years past I had Jackie Robinson’s wife write to one of my students. If you’re familiar with the Little Rock Nine — and this is years and years ago — I had Daisy Bates (American Civil Rights activist) write to one of my students.”
For Szombathy, researching, analyzing and creating a website about the Munich Agreement, titled “The Munich Agreement: A Peace of Paper?” fit in perfectly with the 2011 History Day theme of debate and diplomacy.
Szombathy’s father was born in Czechoslovakia and lived there until the 1960s.
She cited numerous primary sources who lived through the consequences of the Munich Agreement when the German occupation of Czechoslovakia led to World War ll.
“My grandparents told me stories of how their parents were trying to help move soldiers places and my grandma’s dad actually got caught and was taken to a concentration camp near the end of the war,” she shared. “He almost died and he came back looking like a skeleton.
“What I found most interesting in my research was how deceiving Hitler seemed towards (English Prime Minister) Chamberlin and the French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier. I found it so surprising they didn’t really consider who Hitler was and what his goal really was in creating a German empire.”
Szombathy placed seventh in the website category at national competition.
Leonhardt used a video camera to create a winning state documentary called, “The Los Angeles Water Projects: From Dynamite to Conservation.”
Leonhardt traveled to Southern California and videotaped interviews of officials from the Mono Lake Committee and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
He also shot his own footage of the waterways and narrated the 10-minute production.
“My project was about Los Angeles taking water from the Owens Valley and the Mono Basin and what happened to Mono Lake as a result of those diversions and the controversy behind those diversions,” said Leonhardt. “I researched both sides for a balanced perspective.”
Both Szombathy and Leonhardt enjoyed competing in Maryland and meeting other competitors from 50 states, U.S. territories, and Department of Defense schools around the world.
“I’d love to see the program grow and, if a student would love to take part, I would be happy to mentor that student,” added Meiers. “History Day develops so many lifelong skills — research skills, analytical skills, presentation skills.”
Rocklin students who placed at California National History Day include Natasha Szombathy, co-champion individual website; Geoff Leonhardt, co-champion individual documentary; Christina Daley and Melanie Seyfried, third place group documentary; Kyle Carr, third place individual website; Briley Haskins, Cameron Kjome, and Sara Miller, finalists (top eight in the state) group performance; Kristina Carroll, outstanding historical paper on California history; Christina Daley and Melanie Seyfried, outstanding entry on women’s history.
For more information on National History Day contact Lynne Meiers at or visit the National History Day website at
Hooked on History?
National History Day, an academic competition for sixth through 12th grade students
When: Placer County History Day held annually in March at Spring View Middle School
Why: To encourage students to report on historical events and reveal their findings in a paper, exhibit, performance, documentary or website.
Find out more: Contact History Day County Coordinator Lynne Meiers at or visit the National History Day website at