Joshua Hills students score 40 Academic Pentathlon medals
This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press on Friday, April 20, 2007.
By JAMES RUFUS KOREN
Valley Press Staff Writer
PALMDALE - Sixth-graders from Joshua Hills Elementary School raked in a boatload of awards this week after topnotch performances in the Orange County Academic Pentathlon.
The pentathlon, March 28 in Anaheim, pitted students from 75 schools against each other on tests in literature, essay writing, history, math and science.
Scott Graham, a teacher at Joshua Hills, and one of the pentathlon coaches, said students did better than he expected, placing fourth in the team competition and winning 40 individual medals.
"They exceeded our expectations," Graham said. "This is the first year we were bumped up into Division 2, and most of the other schools in the division were private schools."
Students competed individually in math, history, literature and writing, and as a team in science. For the individual contests, students were divided by their average grades - "A" students against "A" students, "C" students against "C" students.
Denzel Usman, 12, finished as the top "C-level" student at the competition and Lindsay Rodriguez, 11, was the fifth-place "A-level" student.
"I feel really satisfied and really nice inside because I proved to myself that I could do well," Rodriguez said. "I enjoyed it because I have a brother who did it before me, and I wanted to see if I could do better than him."
The students trekked to Anaheim at 5 a.m. on March 24 and spent much of the day taking tests in the four individual subjects. Later that day, teams competed in the science "Super Quiz" - a game-show-style competition.
Ruswell "R.J." Tolentino, 11, said the super quiz was fun, but his favorite subject was history. Curriculum for the competition focused on ancient Greece, and Tolentino placed second overall in the subject among "C-level" students.
"I like all the myths and stuff," he said, "and how the stories all have battles and everything."
Results of the event were announced Monday. Graham said Joshua Hills' performance is especially noteworthy because it was the only Title I school in its division. Title I is a federally funded program for schools in high-poverty areas.
Preparation for the pentathlon started in January, right after students got back from winter break. Interested students signed up and were then selected for the event.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, students would spend an hour and a half after school with pentathlon coaches, making sure they were prepared for their big day.
The event and the preparations involved takings lots of tests, but the students didn't seem to mind.
"I thought it was kind of a fun thing - actually, it was really fun," Usman said.
Tolentino agreed, saying a day of getting up early and taking tests was a great time.
"I thought it would be fun to do something instead of sitting at home and watching TV or something like that," Tolentino said. "Just going down to Anaheim and having some fun with my friends and learning some new things about school and other subjects."
The pentathlon is only for sixth graders, but Rodriguez said she wished she could do it again.