Academic Decathlon team prepares for national competition

Photo by Rod Reilly

Photo by Rod Reilly

LILBURN -- For the eighth consecutive year, a team from Berkmar High School won its division in the Georgia Academic Decathlon State Championship.

Now, the team is preparing to compete in the United States Academic Decathlon Large School Online Competition in April.

More than 200 high school students from 23 high schools, representing 17 school districts, competed in the state championship, sponsored by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Foundation, Apple Inc., the Georgia Department of Education and The Coca-Cola Co.

During the competition, students were tested in seven content areas: economics, art, language and literature, mathematics, science, music and Written Super Quiz. In addition, students earned points individually in three communication events: public speaking, a personal interview and a written essay.

"You wouldn't think that taking bubble tests and speeches in public would be that fun, but it was," said Michael Carroll, a 12th-grade member of Berkmar's Academic Decathlon team.

The program is unique because each nine-member team is made up of three "A" students, three "B" students and three "C" students. Each year, the program featured a different overall curriculum topic. This year's topic was the French Revolution.

"I think it's a really good experience for everyone," senior Helen Uttarotai said. "It allows people from all different levels to compete. ... As long as you work together, you can make things happen."

Anhvu Tran, a senior, said team members at all levels worked hard to prepare for the competition, and the team focused on playing on members' strengths.

Tran said participating in the Decathlon has helped him academically.

"I'm not as afraid to give a speech in front of my classmates anymore," he said.

Christopher Pae, one of the team's coaches, said returning team members started preparing in late June for the Decathlon. New members joined in August and September, and the first competition was in January.

"We have a school that's willing to work," Pae said. "We have very smart individuals here. We beat other schools that are supposedly better than us every year. ... I'm very proud of these students and what they accomplish."

Pae noted that all of Berkmar's Academic Decathlon members are Advanced Placement Scholars, meaning they have passed at least three AP exams.

Brian Bernhardt also coaches the team. Other team members are Dina Hassan, Bisrat Kebede, Coleen Tran, Quoc Bao Nguyen, Christian Martinez and Bruhan Ali. Jose Santana served as the team alternate.

In the state competition, Mill Creek High School's team, coached by Lori Bowen, was named first runner-up in Division I.

Catoosa County's Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School was named the Division II winner and state champion.