Collier County School District’s All-Star Scholar Bowl team travelled to Orlando, Florida, to compete in the 2014 Commissioner’s Academic Challenge. The competition draws Florida’s best and brightest high school scholars from 37 Florida counties. The students are asked challenging questions from the areas of mathematics, science, social studies, fine arts, language arts, world languages, and technologies.
Collier County’s All-Star Team:
• Brian Benitez-Senior at Palmetto Ridge High
• Cameron Buxton-Junior at Seacrest Country Day School
• Tommy Smith-Junior at Donahue Academy of Ave Maria
• Mark Torres-Sophomore from Gulf Coast High
• Peter Torres (Captain)-Senior from Gulf Coast High
The students were members of their schools’ Scholar Bowl teams, which practice through the entire school year. Collier County has 10 public and private high schools that competed last year. Students were invited to try out for the state team during a special session in January. From there, the strongest students were chosen based on their performance and their strengths in the various categories.
After practicing for three months, the students and their coach headed to Orlando to challenge other Division I (districts with over 40,000 students) teams. This year’s theme was the Big Bang, and the students had a great showing. After two days of intense competitions, the Collier County team earned a place in the tournament’s finale. Only the top six Division I teams were invited, and the students were extremely nervous and excited. The buzz in the room was palpable as the students found their spot on the stage and took a few pictures to commemorate their victory so far.
As they settled in to their table, the four students checked their table for their constant charts, periodic tables, graphing calculator, and scientific calculator. These, along with their mighty brains, were their only tools needed as they raced to be the first to correctly answer the challenging questions. They knew they were against some of the very top and brightest students in Florida, but they were well prepared and ready to go.
The first and second rounds passed easily. As the students took their two minute break before the final round, they were excited to learn they were holding on to second place. They hit the ground running in the last round, but points were precious. Fifteen points were given for correct answers, but 15 points were taken away for wrong answers. The team did well, but they slipped during that last round they would play together as a team. After the hard work, dedication, and time they invested in their team, they came in sixth in state. This was better than any other Collier team in the past five years. Although their competitive natures wanted a higher placing, they felt proud of their accomplishments. Parents, guardians, and coaches knew the students gave their best, and that was great!
Although the Collier County Scholar Bowl and the Florida’s Commissioner’s Academic Challenge may look to an outsider as a group of smarty-pants kids answering “brainiac” questions, they are much more than that. They give a niche to academically talented students. They encourage students to match wits with other high achieving students. As for adults who watch these competitions, they get to be inspired by the youth of tomorrow. Seeing this caliber of students coming up through the schools would make anyone believe that the horizon of the future is very bright indeed.