Defining Leadership and Legacy as a Young Person Today

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Each year over 500,000 students around the world participate in National History Day (NHD), a year-long academic program that engages young people in advanced history research projects that align with an annual theme. Prior to the start of contests, students are encouraged to submit essays that help define the annual theme for their peers. This year the essays of two high school seniors were selected to represent the annual theme and provide the basis for depicting the 2015 Leadership and Legacy Contest Theme.

The essays written by students Kayla Uplinger, Mount Spokane High School, and Michael Shimek, Crawford High School, were selected from the submissions received through affiliate programs. Students around the world submitted essays defining the theme which is a required component of every NHD Contest documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, and website entry. For 2015 students will face the challenge of integrating the leadership and legacy theme into their projects. Each project must identify and argue who or what in history exemplifies their understanding of the NHD annual theme.

Uplinger’s and Shimek’s essays stood out from other submissions for their ability to go beyond the dictionary description of leadership and legacy and produce examples of historical events and figures that exemplify and illustrate these ideals.

“Leadership and legacy are easy to define in a dictionary. The true understanding of leadership and legacy however, comes from studying the histories, errors, successes, and failures of leaders in the past. Research of the past is useful in defining leadership and legacy by learning from the action of leaders and past events,” noted Shimek in his essay.

“Leadership is the power or ability to lead other people in order to achieve a goal. Doubtlessly, leadership exists in various forms, and it is your job to identify them,” noted Uplinger. This is a job her peers will be tasked with in the coming year as they begin work on their own NHD projects.


NHD is a non-profit education organization based out of College Park, MD. Established in 1974, NHD offers year-long academic programs that engage over half a million primary and secondary students around the world in conducting original research on historical topics of interest. These research-based projects are entered into local affiliate contests, where the top student projects have the opportunity to advance to the national competition at the University of Maryland at College Park. NHD also seeks to improve the quality of history education by providing professional development opportunities for educators. NHD is sponsored in part by the History Channel, Kenneth E. Behring, Weider History Group, Inc., WEM Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Southwest Airlines. For more information about NHD, visit

TWITTER: @NationalHistory

Lynne O'Hara
Director of Programs
Phone: 484-919-2595
Press Release