Researching little-known events in history is a passion for Caitlyn Richter.
Sparked by questions that arose during a museum tour on a family vacation to the mid-western United States in 2010, Caitlyn decided to participate in her school’s History Day competition. She was excited to conduct in-depth research on topics not included in the school curriculum and focused on the plight of 19th century children riding “orphan trains” – one of the largest internal migrations in American history, in which orphans were removed en masse from the streets of New York City using the newly-built railroad lines, and offered up for adoption in the Midwest.
Each year, Caitlyn created museum-quality exhibits designed to share her research with others. Her topics included: the continuing debate between the Lakota Native Americans and the American government over the ownership of Mt. Rushmore; the controversial 1982 surgery in which a baboon heart was transplanted into “Baby Fae” in California; the creation of a separate school for “Oakies” in her hometown of Bakersfield, California when they were refused entry to the city’s schools; Edwin Drake’s invention of the drill pipe in 1848, which enabled America to tap its vast oil deposits and start the oil boom; and Gonzalo Mendez’s fight for equal educational opportunities for his children in post-WWII southern California, which led to the desegregation of California’s schools – and eventually the nation’s schools.
The California Historical Society selected three of her exhibits as special award winners – an unprecedented honor. She won county and state champion multiple times, and competed at the National History Day competition in College Park, Maryland four times. Caitlyn won the gold medal at National History Day with her exhibit, “Right to Education – Responsibility to Educate: The Story of America’s Okie Immigrants and the Arvin Federal Emergency School.” She was designated as a Scholar for the National Endowment of the Humanities, and the exhibit was displayed at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum.
In 2017, Caitlyn graduated with honors from Liberty High School in Bakersfield, California. While there, she was active in, and held leadership roles in, the English Honor Society, Social Studies Honor Society, National Honor Society, and the California Scholarship Federation. She also participated on a nationally ranked, competitive color guard team. Caitlyn is currently a freshmanat the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she is pursuing a degree in forensic psychology and a career as a victim advocate.