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By Cameron Small
Hometown Weekly Intern
National History Day (NHD) is an annual competition in which students from around the world (all fifty of the United States, the District of Columbia, Guam, American Samoa, China, Singapore, Korea, and others) compete. This past year, Needham High School sent Sam Wolfield, who did his project on Rosalind Franklin, to the national competition. The town also sent Monsignor Haddad Middle School seventh grader Kristina McCarron, who did her project on the Chernobyl meltdown, to compete at the NHD competition starting on June 12.
For Kristina, June 12 is more than just the day of the NHD competition. She was adopted from Kiliya, a small village in Ukraine near the border with Romania, approximately 220 kilometers (roughly 138 miles) southwest of Odessa.
Christine McCarron, Kristina’s mother, says “We officially became Kristina’s parents on June 12, 2013 in a courtroom in Ukraine. The National History Day competition that Kristina took part in began on June 12, 2016—three years to the day of our adoption.”
If her finalized adoption coinciding with the competition isn’t inspiring enough, wait, there’s more.
According to Ms. McCarron, “Kristina had no formal schooling until she came to America. In just three years time, Kristina has learned English enough to compete among the top students in the nation.”
Not just in the nation, but from around the world. In a press release from the NHD Executive Director for this year’s competition, “Less than 1% of all entries make it to the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest.”
Kristina chose to do her project on Chernobyl because “I was born in Ukraine and I want to learn as much about my birth country as possible.”
Remembering that Kristina did not have any formal schooling in Ukraine, it isn’t surprising that “She had never heard of Chernobyl during her first ten years of life in Ukraine,” says Ms. McCarron.
Kristina says, “I researched a lot on Chernobyl using primary and secondary sources. I interviewed several New England residents who were affected by Chernobyl because they used to live in Ukraine or Russia. It was really hard to hear the stories of people affected by radiation and see pictures of the victims. I learned that nuclear energy is a powerful technology, but has to be in the right hands and explored very carefully to keep everyone safe.”
Ms. McCarron adds that she “assisted her in interpreting it, as she is still learning to read and write in English. It goes to show you that when someone is given opportunities and chances in life, their potential is limitless.”