Written by Dawn Martinez, Principal, St. Anne Catholic School, Houston, TX
In this captivating narrative, we gain an understanding into the remarkable journey of the National Catholic Junior High Academic Decathlon (AJHD), where a principal and her students’ experience led to an unforgettable day of competition and camaraderie that has everyone eagerly anticipating this year’s competition at St. Anne Catholic School, Diocese of Galveston-Houston.
Under the guidance of principal Dawn Martinez, the inaugural year of this academic endeavor not only brought students and teachers closer but also galvanized the school community, paving the way for future success and growth in this remarkable competition.
Devon was an incredible student of mathematics. He transferred to our school in the sixth grade and quickly demonstrated his knowledge of and love for math. Alisha had a passion for religion. She loved learning about her faith and could see how religion played a part in her studies. Megan was a lover of history. She would devour books about a certain time period and was curious about every piece of social studies.
These three students quickly became part of our Academic Decathlon team. “One of my favorite things about junior high students is their passion for a subject. They are yearning to learn more about a given subject and will devour every piece of information you give them,” said Dawn Martinez, principal of St. Anne Catholic School and first-time regional coordinator for the Academic Decathlon.
“Not only did we find the students who loved a subject, we paired them with an instructor who had an equal amount of devotion and interest in the subject. The turnaround was quick! Students and teachers began learning more about one of the eight subject areas through the resources provided. As students and their mentors learned more, they questioned more and soon you could see the deeper level of understanding that was happening with the team”.
The logic section of the event became game time during lunches. Faculty and staff began bringing their own favorite logic puzzles for the students to attempt. As January rolled around, the students began learning to work together and to develop a strategy for the Super Quiz section part of the day.
“The support of the Academic Decathlon group was astonishing,” said Carole Flaherty, Academic Decathlon coach at St. Anne. “We had never even heard of this competition, but the support that was offered to us made us ready to sign up for the next year and to grow our teams.”
On the day of the Academic Decathlon, we began with a community Mass. The students and their coaches all attended. Father David Zapalac, CSB, pastor of St. Anne, blessed all the students and made them feel welcome on our campus. The students began with a group logic test. With all of the students competing in our school gymnasium, the excitement began to mount. The cheerleaders had decorated the gym with posters and words of encouragement for the nine teams that were all venturing into this for the first time. Next, were subject area tests and in the blink of an eye it was time for the Super Quiz. The gym was suddenly filled with parents, friends and supporters from all over Houston to cheer on these great teams.
After the last test was scored and the results were tallied, it was already awards time. The students and supporters were excited to see who had won individual sections, the logic test, the Super Quiz and of course, who was the all-around winner! “Watching the students cheer one another on reminded us of why we invest time, talent and treasure into a Saturday academic meet,” said Martinez.
By the time the day was over, every one of the schools had told us they were coming back next year and we began planning for an even better experience for our Catholic schools.
Now, as you’ve glimpsed the inspiring journey of this school, it’s time for you to share the AJHD with the students at your school, and embark on your own path to academic excellence. The National Catholic Junior High Academic Decathlon offers a unique opportunity to not only expand middle school students’ knowledge but also build lasting friendships and contribute to a thriving community of scholars. We invite all to join the National Catholic Junior High Academic Decathlon, and be a part of a legacy of learning and achievement.
Register a team of 8-10 students and participate in the full event, or register 1-5 students as a POD (Part of Decathlon), and participate in the Individual subjects only. Register now and let the adventure begin!