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Draper Journal

APA fifth-grader crowned state champion in Utah History Day Fair

Aug 02, 2022 10:46AM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Shloak Nakra may be a typical fifth-grade boy who says his favorite part of school is the playground and dreams of designing cars for Mercedes-Benz.

Yet this South Jordan youth proved he knows his stuff when it comes to history — and writing.

The American Preparatory student recently took on the subject of western expansion to write a paper between 1,500 and 2,500 words complete with an annotated bibliography as well as a 500-word process paper. 

Shloak’s paper, “The Effects of Westward Expansion: Success for Americans, but Damaging for Native Americans,” won the state contest for National History Day.

“The best part was winning,” said the young historian who displays his state champion medal on his bedroom wall.

Shloak chose his topic partly to match the theme, “Debate & Diplomacy in History,” and partly because he had wanted to learn more about the topic he was introduced to in school.

“When I was learning these things in school, I was interested to learn more,” he said. “When I was doing my paper, I learned much more about these topics. I researched and read books that went more in depth about treaties than what I learned in school.”

Shloak said he used sources from the Library of Congress.

“I learned more about how America was in the 1800s and more about Native American culture and the Manifest Destiny,” he said. “The topic fit the theme of debate when the settlers were starting to move into Native American territories because there was a lot of fighting of treaties and a lot of talking. Then, the settlers tried to do a lot of things to get the Native Americans out, and they made reservations for Native Americans to move in, but half the time once they went through these reservations, the settlers discovered gold or something there and they got kicked out of their land again. Sometimes Native Americans tried things that wouldn’t work, and sometimes, the settlers and the United States government tried to do things that wouldn’t work so they needed some diplomacy.”

Shloak picked writing a paper over other methods of presenting what he learned because “we write papers in school, only this one was much longer and harder to write than what I usually do in school.”

For about one month, he worked on this project on his own, outside of school, on top of his regular schoolwork.

However, when he needed help, he turned to his mother, who teaches history at Salt Lake Community College and has volunteered with National History Day.

“It was my first time doing a bibliography, so she taught me how because in school, I’m used to doing quotes and footnotes were a new thing,” he said.

Then, he submitted his paper. 

With an option of in-person or virtual competitions, he opted for virtual so he wouldn’t miss school. Shloak learned he won the Salt Lake regional competition and received a certificate of achievement before the paper won the state title.

“I learned a lot and want to do it again next year,” he said.

While youth division students don’t compete at the national level, secondary students can advance.

Two students, Jayshabari Shankar and Sang Hyun Chun, who both attend Hillcrest High in Midvale, also competed and qualified for the national contest, which will be held virtually June 12-16.