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COVID-19-Related Racism Spurred South City High Students to Win National History Day in California

 
South San Francisco High School juniors Charity Fan and Zoe Kwong recently placed first in the group documentary category of California’s National History Day contest on May 7, 2022, for their project on the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
 
Entitled “Let Them In: Ghosts of the Chinese Exclusion Act”, the pair used their documentary to trace the roots of racial discrimination against Asian-Americans, which became more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The win means that the students will now advance to nationals in June.
 
It also scored them an interview with local, Chinese-language broadcaster KTSF-TV.
 
“We didn’t expect to go this far,” said Kwong. “We really thought we were going to make it to county and maybe state and just stop there.” 
 
Fan and Kwong first met in preschool and have been friends for 14 years so far.
 
They said they were shocked by the level of discrimination that emerged against people of Asian descent during the pandemic, but they learned the importance of coming together as a community to speak out against racism.
 
“We’re not in this alone. There are many other groups also facing discrimination, and we should work together to fight against the discrimination we’re facing,” said Fan.
 
Participants in the National History Day contest first pick a topic at the school level and create a project in one of five categories: research papers, exhibits, documentaries, websites, or dramatic performances.
 
After presenting their projects at school, judges determine which ones will move on to the county level by using a rubric that assesses research, historical accuracy, argument, and project execution. 
  
Winners at the county level go to the state level in Sacramento. Then the top two entries in each category in Sacramento advance to nationals, which typically take place in the Washington, DC area.
 
According to South City High history teacher Rhonda Clements, it is extremely difficult to win at the state level in California, because there is so much competition.
 
“We’ve had this particular topic [Chinese Exclusion Act] go to state many times and make it to the final round at state, but we’ve never won the state of California,” said Clements. “I was thrilled the girls were able to make it, because they are such outstanding students and for the hard work they put into it [the project].”