I first became involved in Academic Decathlon when I was a sophomore at Valley Charter High School in Modesto. The theme of the competition was World War I, which dovetailed quite nicely with my World History and English classes that year. I have long been interested in history, so finally having a competition where my knowledge on that topic was put to the test was very exciting.
One of the most rewarding portions of Academic Decathlon is the essay competition, because it provides an opportunity for students to grow their writing skills. For many of us, it’s the first opportunity for a critical review of our writing, which is useful for both inexperienced and more skilled, confident writers. Because of the very specific prompts (students choose one of the three provided, and then have about an hour to write it), all students draw from the same material to write their essays, so rookie and veteran writers can shine, as the topics change every year.
The last two years, I’ve also participated in the speech and interview portions of Academic Decathlon, which are judged by volunteers from the community. Training for the speeches has helped me become a more concise and less nervous speaker, and improvising a speech is now almost second nature. Preparing for Academic Decathlon interviews also has helped me develop many of the skills that will help me stand out in job interviews after high school.
Even though I’m the club president, I work with my fellow team members constantly to plan and prepare for the competition— in fact, one of my favorite parts of the Academic Decathlon experience, apart from the competition itself, is the camaraderie of the team that develops over the year. From August to the competition in February, we study and read up on the topics — this year’s focus is on India, spanning its history, economics, music, art, biodiversity, and literature. We design and fundraise for our team sweatshirts so we can all wear them on competition day. We quiz each other and take turns giving speeches and answering interview questions, making sure to provide constructive criticism to one another along the way. All of us love to win medals, of course, but the experience of being part of a close-knit team has also been an extremely valuable part of Academic Decathlon. The confidence, knowledge and teamwork that are required will definitely help each of us to succeed in the future after high school.
By Noah Roysdon, Valley Charter High School