Teams seek `BlackAdemic' honors

Students are quizzed on African-American culture and history

Howard County

March 26, 2001|By Donna W. Payne | Donna W. Payne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Students had all the answers at yesterday's "It's BlackAdemic" contest.

Teams representing about 20 Howard County schools met at Oakland Mills High School to showcase their knowledge of African-American history, biography and achievement.

Using a quiz show format, "It's BlackAdemic" matched area schools at three levels of competition - elementary, middle and high school.

First-place prizes went to Centennial High School and Oakland Mills Middle School. The elementary school teams were made up of pupils from several schools, and each participant received a trophy and a certificate.

"It's BlackAdemic" is sponsored by the school system's Black Student Achievement Program (BSAP), but the contest is the brainchild of Donald Wallace of Columbia, a community volunteer and advocate for students. "The purpose of `It's BlackAdemic' is for a history lesson ... from a black perspective," Wallace said.

When the program began four years ago, Wallace and others had "to sell [students] into the concept. Now they come to us."

He said he believes the program is successful because it was designed to be fun for students and because "they feel [they are] a part of the actual history lesson."

Gloria Washington-Wallace, BSAP facilitator, said students have been training for the competition since December, using study packets prepared by BSAP.

Packets included more than 40 biographies of black luminaries, and information about signature events and the contributions of African-Americans in areas such as science, politics, technology and the military.

The students demonstrated "lots of motivation for being prepared and showing well," Washington-Wallace said.

The students correctly answered questions that ranged from naming the inventor of the potato chip to identifying the role of Rosa Parks in the civil rights movement.

Team members had their arms around one another and their heads together as they tried to remember names, dates and places that represented thousands of years of history.

Jelani Ince of Talbott Springs Elementary school said that to be successful, "You have to communicate with your team."

The teams were supported by an enthusiastic crowd of family and friends who clapped for every answer.

Harts Brown of Columbia, dressed in traditional African clothing, represented a coalition of adults called the Council of Elders of the black community of Howard County. "We're here to honor our students and encourage them," said Brown, who is presiding elder of the group.

Judie Cephas, coach for Patuxent Valley Middle School's team, said that she demanded a lot of her pupils during practice and that they learned study skills and teamwork. "Whatever they do, whether they win or not win, they've learned," Cephas said.

Patricia Thorne, adviser for the team from Glenelg High School, noted that the competitions enable her students to get to know students at other high schools. But, she said, "Everybody is really, really serious about the competition. You can tell that when you walk in the door."

"The high school competition is just unbelievable," Washington-Wallace said. "It is very, very tense and intense."

Ken Jennings of Columbia helped write the questions and was a judge for the contest.

"Kids were so energized because they were learning things," Jennings said. "They were learning about themselves, their own history and culture."

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