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AcaDec competition demands skill, preparation

Campus students willfully studying outside of school, training as athletes with pen and pencil. Why would anyone be motivated to do such a thing? For members of the Academic Decathlon team, such intense preparation is mandatory.

Academic Decathlon (AcaDec) is a competitive class that faces off with other schools on the local, state and national levels. Categories for competition are based on G.P.A. Those with a 3.75 or better compete in the honors category, 3.0-3.74 compete as members of the scholastic group and members with a 3.0 or less are varsity.

The team will meet during school hours on Jan. 30 and Feb. 6 for a “cram” session at the home of Molly Sargent, AcaDec adviser. The diversity of the students who make up the team enhances group dynamics.

“This is a very eclectic group of kids that came together well,” Sargent said.

Many seem to enjoy the atmosphere of this laid back yet simultaneously demanding course.

“I really appreciate the dynamic in this class,” Derrick Lehman, ’04, said. “With guys like Randy Hill (’04) and Maury Turner (’04) in the room, it’s hard to get anything done. We all get along really well and have a lot of fun in the class.”

After competition ends in February the team reaps the benefits of a free and relaxed seventh period.

“Last year after the competition it was really nice to have a free period,” John Stevenson, ’04, said. “Josh Justin (’03), Chris White (’05) and I had a three-month long epic Risk battle in the ensuing months.”

Stevenson and White did not return to the class this year. The hours of work and time commitment AcaDec requires dissuade a few from joining its ranks. However, in order to gain a wide range of knowledge, as well as college credit, many students take on the challenges the class presents.

“I feel more confident in what I know,” Kristen Dunne, ’04, said. “I’ve taken interest in things simply because I’ve studied them in AcaDec. It’s also very helpful to have an elective that increases your abilities in math, English and science.”

Dunne and others are studying subjects as diverse as botany, early American music and art, economic, literature, math and speech. A drive to study and accumulate knowledge both in and out of class is an inherent requirement for success on the team.

“AcaDec is very different from regular academic classes,” Sargent said. “I don’t really teach the class because so much of the material is outside of my expertise. Students must be self motivated and choose to learn without prompting.”

AcaDec competitions will be held Jan. 31 and Feb. 7 at Fresno State University.

For more information on AcaDec, visit Fresno County’s web site online at www.fcoe.k12.ca.us/ spc_proj/AcaDec/mainpage.htm.

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