Hubbard High School sophomore Mike Konczal has learned as much as he can about Fidel Castro in the past six months.
Konczal recently became the second person out of 4,000 students from Hubbard over the years to advance to the National History Day contest held in June at the University of Maryland.
Konczal, 16, put together a skit in which he portrayed the famous world leader from Cuba. That performance and other information he collected has helped him to win several first-place honors at local history competitions, which qualified him to compete at the National History Day contest.
The students were assigned the project in November with a March completion date.
Konczal chose Castro because previously he wrote 10 one-page papers for a history class on 10 events that had changed America and one of those was on the Cuban Missile crisis.
"I have always been fascinated with JFK and the Cold War in the 1960s. I learned a lot about Fidel Castro and the revolutions,'' he said.
After placing first at Hubbard High School, Konczal moved to the Youngstown State University's history competition against 400 students, placing first in the individual performance in grades 9 to 12 division.
In addition to Konczal, Christine Leckfor, a junior at Hubbard, received an honorable mention in individual exhibit.
The last person from Hubbard to advance to nationals went 11 years ago for the individual paper category.
With props that included a white folding table with a Cuban flag, Konczal gave the presentation dressed in Army fatigues and a hat and holding a fake cigar.
Konczal, the son of David and Deeana Konczal, was one of 30 students from Ohio and the only student from the Mahoning Valley to compete in the national event held June 10 to 14 at the University of Maryland.
He competed in the individual performance category and changed his format to a Dateline interview format, with the interviewer, also portrayed by himself, interviewing Fidel Castro.
After giving his nine-minute performance on June 12, along with 54 other students representing 39 states, the top eight students moved into the final round.
Unfortunately, he did not qualify for the final round performance, although his evaluation sheets ranked him with excellent ratings in research, quality of performance and bibliographical information. His performance was rated good in analytical research portrayed in the presentation and tying to the theme "Revolution, Reaction and Reform in History."
No Ohio students advanced to the final round in individual or group performance, the only categories in which a final round was held. The winner of the individual competition was from Hawaii who preformed on Hawaii becoming a state and the change in government.
" I thought I hit my final performance perfect, it was the best I ever did it," Konczal said.
"It was a great experience, the nerves of seeing over 7,000 students competing was overwhelming, the atmosphere, the tension was a unique experience." he said.
In addition to competing, Konczal toured Washington D.C. with more than 30 Ohio History Day students.
Konczal credits his drama teacher, Carol Killian, with perfecting his presentation along with her husband, Ron, owner of Ron's Sign Shop in Hubbard, for the Dateline interview sign he used during his presentation. He also credits history teacher Richard Perline and his father for their help in refining his project.
Konczal said he is looking forward to competing again next year in 2013.