The WHS’ AcaDeca team competes at state level

The Academic Decathlon state competition took place on March 16, 17 and 20, where roughly 70 teams competed and WHS placed 17th.

AcaDeca is a 1st–period class open to 10th–12th grade students of all academic levels and backgrounds. In AcaDeca, students spend the year studying material based on a theme that changes yearly in preparation for competitions against other schools.

This past school year’s theme was the Cold War.

“We learned about the history of the Cold War, we studied some of the art from that period [and] we studied the music from that period,” said English teacher and AcaDeca adviser Joseph Nigro. “Other schools in the county and state do the same, and then we compete against them and hopefully we win some medals.”

This year, there was an AcaDeca scrimmage in December, where teams competed against each other for practice, to test out the online platform and to evaluate which teams the WHS students should be divided into.

The WHS AcaDeca class has 28 students divided into multiple teams — Team A, B and C — comprised of nine students each. Team A is the top team that competed at state this year, but all of the teams competed in the county competition. The students all studied and prepared together during class for competitions.

“It has been a positive experience,” said AcaDeca member Emma Fishman ‘22. “It’s a fun work environment. There’s a lot of team spirit, and Mr. Nigro is a great teacher.”

In class, students play games, watch movies/videos and do review exercises. Although they would typically travel for competitions, this year, they were held on Zoom. 

“Normally, we would go to Sacramento, where the state competition is held, but this year, everything was remote,” said Nigro. “They were taking the test through a different interface, but I had everybody on Zoom together so that I could troubleshoot if people had questions.”

The team met Jan. 23, Jan. 30 and Feb. 6 for the county competition and placed 1st out of every high school in Ventura County. Later on, they met again on Zoom for the state competition and participated in the highest division, which contained 20 schools. 

“I can’t speak for normal competitions because I’ve only done the online ones, [but] I know a lot of the people who do it in–person find competitions fun,” said AcaDeca member Chaarvi Goel ‘22. 

At the competitions, there are 10 categories: essay, speech, interview, math, science, literature, social science, music, art and economics. Seven of the categories are multiple–choice on the online platform. One of the categories is an online essay, then the remaining two events, speech and interview, are both done through Zoom with judges. The team was successful in many categories and came home from both competitions with medals. 

“I feel like [the team] is such an interesting mix of people who are just so dedicated to learning and discovering new things,” said Goel. “It breeds for a unique learning environment that even despite being online is much different from any of my other classes.”

The AcaDeca team has been hard at work this year preparing and then competing at the state level, despite the disadvantages of remote learning.  

“We were pretty much entirely remote during this process, and for us to continue to compete at the state level, and then, in this case, get first place at county, [is] awesome, and it’s quite an accomplishment,” said Nigro. “I’m proud of them and their ability to work together cooperatively.”

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