After studying World War II and Africa the past two years for the Kern County Academic Decathlon, high-school students had a more groovy topic to learn about this year — the 1960s.

Since the start of the new school year, teams of students from schools across the county have been learning about the 1960s as it relates to science, music, literature and other subjects. After months of studying, students’ knowledge of the decade was put to the test on Saturday.

The Academic Decathlon wrapped up its two-day run on Saturday at Mira Monte High School with the Super Quiz, a lightning round which tests students’ ability to answer questions within a 10-second time frame. Awards were handed out following the completion of the quiz.

Over the course of two days — Jan. 10 and Feb. 2 — students had to go through a gauntlet of tests, participate in interviews and speeches and more as part of the decathlon, which is put on every year by the Kern County Superintendent of Schools.

For Bakersfield High School student Sean Crowley, this was his last year getting to participate in the decathlon, as he will be graduating this summer. Having had some prior experience with the decathlon, he said it hasn’t been too difficult preparing this year.

“Over the past two years, I have really learned how to maximize my time and be more efficient in my studying,” he said. “The biggest challenge is trying to balance everything. A lot of times it’s easy to just kind of push (studying) aside because of regular school and sports. You have to try to make sure you have a block of time where you can keep up your studies.”

Crowley said he’s enjoyed his experience this year, especially in learning more about the 1960s.

“I really enjoyed how contemporary the theme was this year. It’s just a few generations ago,“ he said. “I felt like I knew a lot about the ‘60s going in but I realized I didn’t really know as much as I thought and that there was a lot to explore.”

One of most interesting things Crowley said he learned about was extent that Medicare and Medicaid was expanded during that decade.

“It’s amazing how much the 60s helped shape the world we currently live in,” he said.

Crowley said he has been accepted to attend Stanford University in the fall and will be pursuing a biology degree. Crowley said he believes he will be able to apply what he has learned in the decathlon to his experiences there.

“I hope that it will help me keep a more open mind about things and try to explore everything I can, kind of keep up that academic curiosity,” he said.

For Highland High senior Sophia Fabrizio, this is also her final year with the program. After a friend encouraged her to join as a junior, she said she quickly took a liking to it.

“It’s been really fun and educational, and I’ve gotten to meet new people. I think it’s improved my public speaking skills,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed working with my teammates. We all have a common interest in learning and we all care about our education.”

Anthoni Orozco from Foothill High joined his school’s Academic Decathlon team for the first time this year.

“I got involved because I was looking for something to do after school. I wanted to get involved with extracurricular activities,” he said. “It’s been nerve-wracking but also really fun. I just like being with people I know from school. We’re all learning about the same things and everyone helps one another.”

Carolyn Antongiovanni, who coached the Foothill High team for 10 years and now serves as the coach for the Garces High team, said it’s seeing the student camaraderie and teamwork that makes the experience most satisfying for coaches.

“The best part is you start out with this people who really don’t know each other come together as a team and support each other come together. By the end, you’d think they’d been best friends for years,” she said. “It’s nice to win the medals, but to see them come together as a team is the most rewarding.”

Joseph Luiz can be reached at 395-7368 or by email at jluiz@bakersfield.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @JLuiz_TBC. 

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