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Abigail Giroux ’25 Wins National History Day Senior Individual Documentary Film Contest

Abigail Giroux ’25 took home top honors at the highest level of the National History Day competition for her documentary film, “Wade in the Water: How African Americans Got Back Into The Pool.”  

Abigail has been creating documentaries for Maryland History Day and National History Day since she was in the sixth grade. Her topics have included female telephone operators during war times, the full story about the use of atomic bombs in World War II and the postal strike of 1970.  She was inspired to start making films, “because no one believed that I could,” she said.

Her films have qualified for nationals every year she’s participated.  Middle School history teacher Dr. Matthew Hetrick P’23 leads the Bryn Mawr National History Day program and advises every student who participates.  His guidance is especially important to Abigail after he encouraged her to participate as a sixth grader. 

“I am proud of how far I have come since that film in sixth grade,” Abigail said, “I have learned how to tell a story about something that is important to me.”  

Her win this year in the Senior Division Individual Documentary Film category means she was also named a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar, and received the Next Generation Angels Award, the Library of Congress Ken Burns Prize for Film, as well as the Anne Harrington Award.  As a part of her Next Generation Angels Award, Abigail will have a Zoom mentorship session with acclaimed documentary director Ken Burns, as well a session with one of the finalists for the Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film finalist.  Her award winning film will receive a copyright and will be in the Library of Congress in perpetuity as well.  Abigail was also one of only three students to be awarded a full scholarship to the National History Academy summer program to experience history first hand. 

When deciding on her research focus for National History Day,  Abigail carefully selects her topics knowing that she will need extensive archival materials in addition to interviews, high-resolution images, audio recordings and historical film recordings.

For this year’s film, Abigail sought help finding the necessary material, reaching out to local libraries and AFRO News, which includes the AFRO American newspaper. Abigail also interviewed Eva Scott, the first Black woman to work as a lifeguard in Baltimore City’s Druid Hill Park Pool.  

Following extensive research, Abigail writes an outline and script.  “My first script usually has more than 6,000 words,” she said, “I cut it down to about 1200 words for a 10 minute film.”  Her favorite part of the process is editing the footage together with audio, her interview and the archival materials.  

“My adventures with National History Day always started by finding a thread and pulling on it to see where it would take me,” Abigail said.  To students considering participating in Maryland History Day, Abigail suggests picking topics of genuine interest, “I would tell other students to pick their topic fearlessly.  Don’t back away from an unusual topic.  Remember, someone has to be the first, so why not you?”

You can watch Abigail’s National History Day gold medal documentary film here.  Her film will also be featured in the Student History Film Festival in Philadelphia this fall.