Nearly two dozen students of Encore Jr./Sr. High School in Hesperia competed and placed in the National History Day competition.

This spring, the students competed in the county level competition at Summit High School in Fontana against students from schools all over San Bernardino County.

The students received a total of 33 certificates and medals.

On top of that, the students were led by the guidance of Kim Ferrante, eighth grade US History teacher.

Ferrante, who has been with the school for five years, participated for the first time with last year's class. That year, one of the groups placed in the top eight in the state.

Ferrante said that history is more than memorizing names of long-dead people and meaningless dates just to answer some questions at the end of a chapter of a textbook.

"The benefits of National History Day are that the students become historical sleuths by doing research," Ferrante said. "Conducting original research and presenting their findings allows them to share how history affects our lives outside of the classroom."

When the engagement in historical research began last August, Ferrante's students knew it would be hard work. They would be competing against more than half a million students who participate every year, according to the NHD website.

But the students were up for the challenge.

Their first task was to choose their partners, topic and whether they wanted to present their work in the form of a play, paper, website, exhibit or documentary.

Next, the students collected material for their projects by conducting interviews with curators of multiple museums around the country, Holocaust survivors, and professors from the U.S. and England.

The students also visited the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, took a tour of the Institute for the Blind in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Aqueduct, wrote a letter to Fidel Castro and used several other methods to learn more about their topics.

During the research process, some students worked closely with the director of the Inyo County Museum. After showing their finished product to the Museum before the competition, the students were invited to give a presentation at the museum later this year.

"This was a difficult project that forced us to be organized and use our time wisely," said Micah Haskins, who won an award for best interview for his group's presentation of the Nuremberg Trials. "This competition brought out our full potential in every aspect of life, but in the end, everything paid off and competing was a lot of fun."

After their success at the county level competition, the top 12 finalists traveled to Sacramento from April 25 to 28 for the state round.

To pay for the trip, the students held fundraisers on campus and solicited local businesses for donation.

Ferrante and her 12 eighth grade competitors spent the weekend museum hopping, riding trains, and admiring the Capitol building.

The weekend ended with two groups placing in the top five in the state.

"History Day helped me learn things about myself, history, and life skills," said Nico Bodle, who placed in the top five in state with partner, Priscilla Bracamontes. "I was very lucky to be given this opportunity."

Ferrante's students did not make it to the national level of the competition. But staying confident, Ferrante said there's always next year.