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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Lauren Foreman covers education for The Californian. Reach her at lforeman@bakersfield.com, at Facebook.com/TBCEducationReporter or on Twitter@TBCTheGrade.

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Felix Adamo / The Californian

Stockdale High School's award winning national leadership team standing from left, Mady Fredriksz, Abigail Maliyekkal, Hamid Abuwarda, seated from left, Shreya Banerjee, and Julie Yip.

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Felix Adamo / The Californian

Stockdale High School's award winning national leadership team. Mady Fredriksz,(top left) Abigail Maliyekkal, and Hamid Abuwarda. Shreya Banerjee (bottom left) and Julie Yip.

HEALTH STUDENTS WIN GOLD: Just in case you were wondering what it takes to win a national competition tailored to produce future doctors and health care workers, here you go:

Thousands of flash cards, game show buzzers, year-round practices and a little goofing off in Target aisles.

That was the gold-crested winning recipe four Stockdale High School students used to place first in a competition held at a Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) National Leadership Conference held June 26-28 in Orlando, Fla.

The students -- Hamid Abuwarda, Madeline Fredriksz, Abigail Maliyekkal and Julie Yip -- competed against about 80 teams (totaling 279 students) in a preliminary written contest and outmatched 31 teams later in Jeopardy-style buzzer rounds, each 10 minutes long.

They fielded questions from parliamentary procedure and medical terminology to safety and infection control, anatomy and pathology subjects.

Maliyekkal said the team strategy was to sound buzzers before proctors finished reading their questions.

"We train ourselves to hear certain words. Then, we deduce all possible answers that could come from that first part of the sentence," Maliyekkal said. "And then, we make an educated guess."

It was a strategy that could have cost them the semi-final round against Rancho High School, a magnet academy in Las Vegas and the second-place team in HOSA Bowl.

Abuwarda sounded his buzzer before the proctor finished reading the question. Luckily, he correctly guessed the answer after he conferred with teammates.

"It was probably the most stressful event of my life," Abuwarda said.

The students began the semi-final round down by four points. But they caught up in what was thereafter a one-point game that turned in Stockdale's favor seconds before the end of the round.

Then, Rancho High correctly answered a question right before the end of the round. It sent the two teams into a five-question tie-breaker, in which the first team to correctly answer three questions won.

"It was nerve-racking," Maliyekkal said.

The Stockdale team buzzed in first three times in a row and answered each question correctly.

One required contestants to name the surgical puncture into the intestine to asperate fluid.

"Enterocentesis," Maliyekkal answered.

Another -- one their advisor, Janell Burke, said they answered before hearing the question -- began, "in the HOSA handbook, what is..."

Abuwarda interrupted with a buzz and correctly answered handbook C.

"They got lucky," Burke said. "But they are very sharp."

Abuwarda, Fredriksz, Maliyekkal and Yip -- seventh in the national HOSA Bowl last year -- participated in this year's leadership conference with 18 other Stockdale students.

Shreya Banerjee, one of the 18 students, was a junior when she earned a first-place medal in the conference's Extemporaneous Writing category Saturday.

She spent one hour writing a five-page response to a prompt about the role of social media in health care, and cited a recent lawsuit that claims hospital employees posted a patient's syphilis diagnosis on Facebook.

Still, Banerjee never expected to win the competition.

Her name was the last one called of the top 10 students in Extemporaneous Writing.

Maliyekkal held Banerjee's hand as she sat "terrified" at an awards presentation Saturday at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort.

"To be honest, I was stunned," Banerjee said of winning.

Stockdale High School Principal Ramon Hendrix congratulated Banerjee and the other four first-place winners Tuesday.

"We're very proud of them," he said.

The students, also pretty proud of themselves, said participation in HOSA has helped them determine what they want to do professionally.

Yip, an aspiring engineer, wants to start her own biotech company.

Banerjee wants to be a doctor; Fredriksz and Abuwarda, surgeons; and Maliyekkal, a neurosurgeon.

"We are gong to wake up every morning and love what we do, and that's going to make us better doctors, and engineers," Maliyekkal said.

TEACHER OF THE WEEK: Janell Burke, a Stockdale teacher, has led about 15 students to become national victors at HOSA.

Guided by a goal that every student get a quality education, she has directed Stockdale's medical program, known as MASH, for 18 years.

She instructed at least 28 practicing physicians and 129 registered nurses, 10 percent of whom have gone on to become nurse practitioners.

Abigail Maliyekkal, a HOSA student, said Burke -- "mama Burke" to some -- looks at each of her students as her own kid.

"And that's really remarkable to me," Maliyekkal said.

KHSD ADMINS BEGIN NEW ROLES: Administrators in the Kern High School District began new roles Tuesday, after improving economic tides led to district reorganization.

Salaries for the new roles include:

* $154,678 for Brenda Lewis,assistant superintendent of instruction and former principal of Foothill High

* $154,678 for Dean McGee, former principal of West High and now assistant superintendent of educational services and innovative programs

* $170,420 for Mike Zulfa, associate superintendent of human resources and former assistant superintendent for instruction

RALLY CRY FOR FREE SPEECH: Vincenzo Sinapi-Riddle, a student at Citrus College in Glendora, filed a lawsuit against the Citrus Community College District Tuesday, joining students in Iowa, Ohio and Illinois in what is thought to be the first coordinated legal challenge of free speech restrictions in higher education.

The initiative is aimed at eliminating speech codes and other policies that restrict expression on public campuses. It is sponsored by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a Philadelphia-based group that promotes free speech.

In a report published this year, the foundation found that 58 percent of 427 major colleges and universities surveyed maintained restrictive speech codes despite what Senior Vice President Robert Shibley called a "virtually unbroken string of legal defeats" dating to 1989.

-- Los Angeles Times

STUDENTS GET SPANISH BOOKS: The Consulate of Mexico donated 1,000 Spanish-language textbooks to the Community Action Partnership of Kern, a federally-funded anti-poverty agency, to promote literacy and parent involvement among Spanish-speakers.

Students in CAPK programs such as a summer camp at Friendship House Community Center have already started to receive the books -- officials said at a press conference held Wednesday at Friendship House.

Nivea Rader, one of 120 participants in the Friendship House summer program, has not gotten her book yet. But she said she is happy about the donation because it will help teach kids more about Spanish.