YHS competes in 32nd annual academic decathlon

awileman@sierrastar.comJanuary 28, 2014 

Yosemite High School Decathletes have been busy in past weeks preparing for the 32nd annual Madera County Academic Decathlon which began Friday, Jan. 24, at the Madera County Office of Education and continues this weekend on Feb. 1, at Madera South High.

The competition is just like it sounds and involves 10 different events where students are tested on subjects like math, English, social science, and art.

Schools from all over the county, including Chawanakee Academy, Chowchilla High, Liberty High, Madera High, Madera South High and Yosemite High will be giving it their best for the chance to be named county champion and compete in this years state competition held in Sacramento this March.

The teams are split into divisions including Honor, Scholastic and Varsity levels and the final overall teams will be determined by selecting the top three students from each division.

On Friday, Jan. 24, the six schools competed in the interview and essay portion of the competition and will return to Madera South to compete on Feb. 1, in the remaining events.

The topic of this year's competition is World War I to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of one of the worlds deadliest and most gruesome wars.

"This prestigious competition continues to be highly regarded by colleges and gives students an opportunity to be introduced to topics not necessarily emphasized in their general course of study," said Cecilia Massetti, Ed.D., Madera County Superintendent of Schools. "Students not only demonstrate their analytical skills but also must communicate their ideas though interviews and essays showing the depth of their knowledge."

Yosemite Senior Kenny Jeffris won a gold metal last year in the competition and received $100 in prize money. Jeffris says he is looking for the team to repeat as county champions and says he truly enjoys learning in and out of class.

"Everyone can learn in school, but going the extra mile yourself is completely different," Jeffris said. "This is the most dedicated group of people I have had the pleasure or working with...without a doubt."

According to Madera County Office of Education Events Developer Kristi Winter this year's competition will host numerous changes as schools will now be allowed up to 25 students per team, up from nine last year, all of whom are eligible for awards.

"It's great to be using technology, now that we are in the 21 century. The students will be required to use hand-held devises at the state competition in March and this will not be foreign to the winners from this county," Winter said. "We are really lucky to be piloting this program this year."

In an effort to evolve with the ever changing times this is the first year decathletes will be answering certain sections online. Students will be required to answer the English portion of the competition using laptop computers, which will be graded and scored by certified trained readers.

According to Massetti, Madera County is proud to be part of the pilot program involving new computer based programs in which students will use hand-held devices to input their answers. Students will be using the devices in the art, economics, language and literature, mathematics, music, science and social science portions of the competition.

"We are excited for all of these changes," said Massetti. "They will allow more students to participate and receive accolades for their many hours of hard work and study."

This will also be the first year the essay part of the competition will be held prior to the other events in hopes of giving more students the opportunity to compete and also shortening Saturday's competition into a more manageable time frame.

The Super Quiz section of the competition — a Jeopardy style quiz and favorite amongst students — will require students to input their answers, using the hand-held device, within seven seconds of receiving the question. This will allow for immediate feedback for the students as soon as they enter their results and will provide speedy and instant postings after every round for both the students and the audience.

Yosemite High is no stranger to the competition and boasts huge success rates at the Academic Decathlon. The Badgers have won 20 Madera County titles since entering the competition in 1992, all of which were coached by current adviser Steve Browning.

Senior decathlete Angela Du, who plays varsity tennis, is President of the Science Club, volunteers at Saint Agnes and was part of German summer exchange program, is returning for her third year in the competition and thinks very highly of her coach and this year's team.

"Our coach learns everything with us so he has a better understanding of what we are going through and he acknowledges our strengths and weakness," Du said. "I have amazing teammates, an awesome coach and I enjoy learning while having fun."

Browning believes the this year's students have a very good chance and have spent numerous hours studying World War I in hopes of bringing home this year's title.

"This is the most amicable team that I've had in many years," Browning said. "They do cram sessions at each others houses, which helps them greatly.....camaraderie is important in this competition and these kids are friendly to one another but still maintain a competitive edge."

All kids who achieve high enough scores throughout the competition receive 4-units of college credit at Fresno State, units that can be used towards Humanities. According to coach Browning these units are enticing to the students and can be transferred to any college in California.

Students will receive awards in each division including Honor, Scholastic and Varsity levels. Each subject will include a gold, silver and bronze medal handed out to the winners.

The public is invited to attend the Super Quiz and Awards Ceremony begining at 2:15 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1, at Madera South High School.

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