From March 30th through April 2nd at the Coronado Springs Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, the Key West High School (KWHS) Academic Challenge team, a student-run educational trivia team, proved their intellectual abilities by placing fifth place in their state competition.
Although there is no monetary prize like Jeopardy, a game show based on your knowledge of various topics, Academic Challenge gives the students a greater prize as a high school student: an academic state title. Winning or even placing as a state title in Academic Challenge is equivalent to the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA), an organization that runs all high school sports in Florida, state championship medals.
Through a microphone, each question is said verbally and declares whether the team has either 60 or 120 seconds to answer based on difficulty and subject, ranging from math to chemistry to foreign language. Because of the variety of topics, a mix of experts in different subjects on the team is crucial to see ‘gold-star’ results, which was how the KWHS team succeeded this year.
The club sponsor Elizabeth Ford, an English teacher at KWHS, has been running the team for about seven years, taken them to states three times, and placed them in states once, which was this year. That being said, Ford knows how to run this team, and based on her past statistics, she can run it well.
Starting at the beginning of September, Ford hosted many practices, but without the kids’ will to do great in the competition, the practices won’t mean anything. “They’re really great at [dividing up the subjects between each other],” explained Ford. “I think it’s the nature of the kid that they want to do well, [and fortunately I have those kids].” Over spring break, the team practiced their subjects and asked Ford to use study sets on their own, determined to do their best in the state competition. Did those practices pay off? Yes, yes they did.
This year’s 2021-2022 captain, Alexander Wilson, a senior at KWHS, has been a part of the Academic Challenge team since he was a freshman in high school. “When I joined, I was instantly drawn into the excitement of the game and the intellectual feel of it,” said Wilson. “It [is] really fun to test my knowledge and see how well my team members and I [can] work together.”
Throughout his four years on the team, Wilson has observed how brilliant his peers are and how bright their futures can become, giving greater meaning to the club than just answering trivia questions: a family. “I have befriended many scholars both in my grade and in [others],” explained Wilson. “It’s created a group of students that are more about camaraderie than competition.”
The Academic Challenge team is always looking for new people to join. You don’t have to be the smartest in your class to compete with them, but you certainly have to have the drive and dedication of wanting to learn more, as that is the whole point of this club. “If you [want to] test your knowledge and see what you can do, join Academic Challenge next year!” disclosed Wilson.