Academic Challenge team participates in second televised competition

Victoria Liu, Angelo Bucci, Serena Juchnowski, Anthony Pignataro, and Danielle Kakish (clockwise from top ;left) pose with their plaque.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Pignataro, used with permission.

Victoria Liu, Angelo Bucci, Serena Juchnowski, Anthony Pignataro, and Danielle Kakish (clockwise from top ;left) pose with their plaque.

Avery Miller-Dakota, Culture Editor

A small peanut butter sandwich sits untouched on teacher Jeff Fry’s desk. Suddenly and with great force, senior academic challenge member Jason Choy stabs the sandwich with a candle. Ten or so academic challenge members begin to sing happy birthday to their leader — or more accurately, their coach. One of the members places a “birthday girl” hat atop of Fry’s head.

It was an exciting time for the Revere High School Academic Challenge team — and not only because the students were celebrating an important birthday. The varsity team recently appeared and competed in a televised match in which they not only placed but also won a small amount of grant money.

Revere High School fosters three academic challenge teams — one varsity and two junior varsity. Fry alongside teacher Ellen Friery have been coaching the students for nineteen years.

Revere’s varsity team competed in a WEWS televised competition on Sunday, March 8, 2017. Collecting points by answering questions covering such topics as math, science, history and literature, the taping will broadcast on May 13th at 7 pm.

Revere competed against three neighboring schools. Each team consisted of five members — three competitors and two alternates. The varsity team consisted of senior Danielle Kakish, senior Serena Juchnowski and senior Anthony Pignataro; alternates were junior Angelo Bucci and senior Jason Choy. Friery explained that although most of the varsity members are seniors, this is not always the case.

“It does not have to be that way. We usually pick our top attendence, top scoring students [to be on the varsity team],” Friery said.

“This year our seniors happened to be our strongest students,” Fry said.

Typically, explained Friery, the team travels to a televised broadcast every other year. Due to the students ranking, however, the team was fortunate enough to attend two years in a row. Senior member Danielle Kakish commented.

“It was such an amazing experience to compete on television. I was definitely nervous going into the competition, but our team was really able to work together and win,” Kakish said.

Westfield Insurance has sponsored Academic Challenge since 2003. Each season, Westfield Insurance awards over twenty thousand dollars in grant money to the top ten scoring teams. A school’s ranking determines how much money they are rewarded; therefore, the number one ranked school receives the most amount of money while number ten is awarded the least. Because Revere came in fourth, they were awarded fifteen hundred dollars. This money, however, must be used by the school for the benefit of, and to assist with, the educational needs of students.

“The check [is made out] to the school . . . A portion of it goes to the team and the other portion goes to either the school library to purchase things for the school, or it can be donated to a charity such as Habitat for Humanity,” Fry said.

Although monetary awards provide incentive, Fry and Friery explained that the experience alone is motivation enough. For instance, Friery explained that throughout the taping of the competition a set director stood in front the audience, occasionally waving his hand in the air. This meant that the audience was supposed to clap.

“Sometimes it is nerve racking because we know they know the answers, but they are hesitating,” Friery said.

“It’s worth it because we have good kids,” Fry said.
The team came in fourth place overall, earning a total of fifteen hundred dollars and 605 points.

The students finish singing to Fry, and the room comes to the quietest it has been. As Choy cuts the sandwich into twelfths — one piece for everybody in the room — it is evident that the team has much to celebrate.