SELMA – The Selma High 2018 Academic Decathlon team took fifth place in its division at the 36th Annual Fresno County Office of Education Academic Decathlon that culminated in a super quiz on Feb. 3.

Their coaches say not only are they proud of the team’s individual medal winnings but also of their overall improvement. The team was able to improve their results by more than 800 points over the past year and team members earned 14 individual medals.

Head Coach Grace Patterson said aside from learning about Africa, the students taking part in the Decathlon learn the valuable life skills such as public speaking which involves writing, memorizing and performing a speech.

“They also have to practice interviewing, as that is another component of the competition,” she said. Since the students typically go on to take part college and job interviews, the Decathlon gives them useful practice.

“It improves their overall communication,” she said.

Students are also learning to organize and process a high volume of information and practice essential study skills as they learn to collaborate as a team, Patterson said.

Aside from this, the decathletes also gain knowledge about the various countries in Africa they typically haven’t been exposed to before.

“Learning about the history, politics, and science of various countries in Africa was very eye-opening for students,” Patterson said. “We hope students take all they learned about Africa and share their new understanding of its history and rich culture with others. We also hope the class evokes curiosity about not only Africa but other parts of the world, broadening their view of the world and all it has to offer.”

Assistant Coach Dave Highbaugh said this year’s team was the largest class they’ve ever had with 34 members.

“I was extremely proud of our students this year. The decathletes have studied Africa through the lens of history, art, music, science, literature, economics and mathematics,” he said.

For the Decathlon, students took part in essay, speech and interview competitions. The final competition was Feb. 3 at Fresno’s Central East High School.

“One of our students, Kevin Garcia, had one of the top three speeches in the county, so not only did he get a gold medal in speech, he also was honored to deliver his speech at the awards ceremony Saturday night in front of all decathletes, coaches, parents, administrators and dignitaries,” Highbaugh said.

In his speech, Garcia posed the question of what defines an American and he highlighted how some use those ideas as a means of separation and inequality.

“Hate groups view the word as a barrier between them and others. This causes separation, inequality, and hate because they see their targets not as Americans but something else.”

In his speech, Garcia said he’s hopeful the concept of being an American can instead be one of equality and opportunity.

“When I think of an American, I think of the noble field worker, striving for the so-called ‘American Dream.’ Although they might not be defined as an American because of where they were born, they continue to work hard and strive toward their dreams, and they still want to be an American. Who are we to deny them that? When I think of an American, I think of hard-working. So, that is my definition.”

Patterson is assisted by Highbaugh, Russ Mitchell, Dave Norman, Adam Alcoser, Dave Cox and Chris Rempel in coaching the Selma High decathletes.

It is Team 1’s results that count toward the final score and they compete in the super quiz event. Team 1 includes: Honors: Denae Vargas, Levi Valencia and Hannah Fratina; Scholastic: Anisa Viveros, Maria Velasquez Calderon and Kimberly Lopez Paulino; Varsity: Simran San Miguel, Kevin Garcia and Jesus Garcia; and Wild Cards: Jose Zarate, Daniel Acevedo Garcia and Eric Miramontes.

Team 2 includes Samuel Arballa, Michelle Arrevalo, Gregoria Avila, Emmanuel Bonilla, Stacy Carbajal Mendoza, Yann Carranza-Duran, Mia Castro, Mahtab Gill, Fabian Gomez, Fernanda Gonzalez, Jocelyn Hernandez, Jordan Hernandez-Hernandez, Samantha Louie, Lizette Moreno, Mohit Narr, Omar Rocha, Onofre Ruelas Aguilar, Magdiel Ruiz, Manjot Sandhu, Iris Soto, Laura Vasquez Vasquez and Ashley Maya Gaitan.

Here are the results of how the students placed individually at the Decathlon:

Maria Velasquez Calderon earned a bronze in essay; Jesus Garcia earned a silver in essay, bronze in social science and bronze in music; Kevin Garcia earned a bronze in interview, silver in economics, silver in art and gold in speech; Anisa Viveros earned a gold in math and silver in music; Denae Vargas earned a gold in math; Eric Miramontes earned a bronze in economics; Kimberly Lopez Paulino earned a gold in economics; and Simran San Miguel earned a bronze in speech.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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