MEMPHIS, Tenn. — For Muadth Malley, winning first place at the National History Day Contest was a dream come true several years in the making.
"I was in shock for a few minutes, I didn't know what was going on. I just ran to the stage and took my medal but didn't realize I won until a few minutes after," Malley said.
The ninth grader from Pleasant View School, a private Islamic school on Bartlett Road, took first place in the senior individual paper category at the national finals.
Each year the National History Day Contest at the University of Maryland attracts more than half a million students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam and Puerto Rico. International schools in China, Korea, and South Asia also competed in this years contest.
Students were able to write a paper, create a play, create an exhibit, or make a documentary about something in history that is connected to the contest's theme for the year. This year's theme was "Conflict and Compromise in History".
Malley focused his paper on The Lebanese Civil War and the Taif Accord. He explained that what happened in Lebanon could be a blueprint for peace in other parts of the world.
"Even though a conflict may seem never ending, there is always a way to get out of it," he said.
He said he chose to write a paper because it was the best fit to explain the topic.
"We do a lot of writing at our school so I felt like it would be the best fit for me to do a paper because I'm most experienced in that," Malley said.
He said participating in NHD isn't about winning but about learning the skills that are essential not only for college but life. Skills that he's crafted at Pleasant View — one of the only private Islamic schools within a few hundred miles.
Social studies teacher Andre Clark said it caters to most of Tennessee and the surrounding states.
"For parents who want high academic rigor for their student as well as being in a relatively safe environment, we are pretty much the only option for hundreds of miles," Clark said.
Clarke said just making it to the national competition is an achievement unto itself, but admitted Malley's taking home the big prize wasn't too big of a surprise.
"It's not the first time he's made it to finals so he has a track record of producing the quality of work that can get him to finals," Clark said.
In addition to receiving a medal for first place, Malley was awarded $1,000 — which he said he's hoping to put towards a car — and a scholarship to attend the National History Academy summer program next year.
"It's worth like a $10,000 scholarship. They only let 100 students in. NHD was given four allocations and I was lucky enough to get one of them," Malley said.
The program takes the students to 42 historical locations to learn about American history.