Above: The EGHS AcaDeca Team 2021 on the day of the competition, including faculty advisor Ben Revkin, upper left.
In March, 15 EGHS students competed in the statewide Academic Decathlon (AcaDeca) competition, earning second place.
EGHS has been scoring second best in Rhode Island since 2019, with Bishop Hendricken students as perennial first-place champions.
This year came with unique challenges, since the competition was fully remote.
Traditionally, R.I. high school AcaDeca teams meet at CCRI’s Knight Campus for approximately 10 hours. The competition is divided into 10 categories: art, music, math, economics, science, social science, language & literature, speech, interview, and essay. On competition day, students are tested in 9 of the 10 areas. (Students write their essay a couple weeks beforehand.)
Students do their speech and interview in front of a panel of judges. For all other topics, students take a multiple-choice test.
“I definitely think [the competition] lacked a personal touch,” said Ben Revkin, EGHS AcaDeca coach and Latin teacher. “Being able to do an interview in person definitely feels a lot different than doing an interview over [Zoom].”
All preparation for the competition had to be done remotely too. Since October, EGHS students have been meeting twice a week via Google Meet rather than in person at the school.
Students seemed to enjoy the competition but agreed that the experience of meeting with their team members at CCRI always made it more fun. In the past, EGHS students would gather for a large breakfast at T’s on the morning of the competition, then head to CCRI.
“I thought that the way they did online testing was the best they could do given the circumstances,” said Julia Xu, an EGHS junior. “It’s just that without the whole experience of dressing up, having breakfast at T’s, and actually going to the competition, it felt like a bunch of regular old tests.”
“I thought that the experience was definitely not the same as it was in person,” said senior Eric Fang, “but the events and the tests that quizzed all of our hard work made attending still worth it.”
Revkin says he originally felt that the absence of in-person meetings “would be an issue, but our results were still very good.”
“Maybe I’m just a pessimist, but I’m always surprised that we do so well,” he added. “I always feel like I underprepared everybody, like we didn’t have enough time to study our materials.
Every year, [the team] always amazes me and we do really well. This year was no different than that.”
This year’s central theme was the Cold War. Themes of past years include the 1960s, health & wellness, and Africa.
The language & literature category quizzed students on Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, a satirical novel centered around the arms race and the creation of the atomic bomb.
Though the competition was held online for the first time this year, students were fortunately already familiar with the online platform and test format. Each year, students do two rounds of practice tests — called scrimmages — on an online testing service provided by the United States Academic Decathlon (USAD).
The EGHS team consists of eight core team members and seven alternates. All members participate in the 10 exam categories, but only the core members’ scores are used for the overall ranking of schools.
Students are also placed in one of three divisions — honors, scholastic, and varsity — based on their GPA. The honors division is typically for A-average students, scholastic is for B-average students, and varsity is for C-average students.
At the very end of the competition, a ceremony is always held to recognize the top three schools with trophies and individual high scorers with medals. This year, a virtual awards ceremony was held to celebrate the students and teams.
A number of individuals spoke in the virtual ceremony, including Kim Kalunian of WPRI 12 and Governor Dan McKee.
Also in the ceremony, RIAD director Frank Lenox — and physics teacher at EGHS — spoke of the challenges that students, RIAD board members, and judges encountered this year.
“Fortunately, 11 months of a pandemic prepared us all for the nuances of working in a virtual world,” said Lenox. “Nearly 100 students moved through our speech and interview events without incident, and we were able to engage our judges in what has been the most unique Decathlon to date.”
Six EGHS students received individual medals for scoring the highest in their division in a given category.
Here’s a list of the individual award winners:
- Emmett Bassen-Alexander: Gold in Interview
- KC Bisetti: Silver in Literature, Gold in Speech
- Cyrus Davoudi: Silver in Essay
- Cooper Jones: Bronze in Literature, Silver in Science, Bronze in Math, Gold in Economics
- Aiza Shaikh: Silver in Art, Silver in Math, Bronze in Economics, Silver in Interview
- Julia Xu: Silver in Music, Bronze in Science, Gold in Art, Bronze in Math, Bronze in Economics
A complete list of winners and their respective categories can be found HERE.
The full awards ceremony can also be viewed HERE.
As second-place winners, the core team members will be participating in an online national competition later this month. Details have not yet been finalized, but Revkin hopes to have students take the tests at the high school, something a little closer to what past years have looked like.
Each year, RIAD looks for volunteers from the community to serve as judges for speeches and interviews. If you’re interested in being a judge for next year’s competition, you can find more information HERE.
Aiza Shaikh, a senior at EGHS, has been an EG resident since 2008. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, traveling, and eating coffee ice cream.