Academic Decathlon


Sabrina Safier and Katie Flanagan

Academic Decathlon is a program at Esperanza that gives students the opportunity to explore a variety of subjects in preparation for an annual county-wide competition. The EHS decathletes studied hard this year and recently finished their season in early March. The decathlon team is coached by Mrs. Nguyen-Valdez and Mrs. Massaglia. From October to February, the decathletes study ten different subjects: social science, literature, art, music, science, math, economics, speech, interview, and essay. Each of the subjects support a theme chosen yearly by the United States Academic Decathlon. The 2022-2023 theme was the American Revolution. The students also compete in super quiz, a fast-paced quizbowl type event and a favorite for freshman Eric Alfaro. He describes it as a “fun and exciting” experience. In preparation for the competition, the students meet three times a week during seventh period. Sophomore Shivali Sharma describes a typical day in the program as a mixture of studying and enjoying the company of her fellow decathletes. “After grabbing a bunch of food we quiz each other on whatever topics we learn whether that be art or literature or history,” said Sharma. “I think it’s a really fun way to get to know each other and get to learn more in depth about the curriculum.” To many, the name “academic decathlon” conjures images of cutthroat competition and six hour study sessions. Luckily, neither of those are true. The decathlon room is often filled with laughter and the crinkling of snack bags. The highlight of most students’ experiences is bonding with their teammates. Junior captain Alex Tumakay is grateful for the opportunity to “grow academically” and forge interpersonal relationships. “I also wanted a way to feel more connected to my school especially during Covid when I didn’t really know anyone else here,” said Tumakay. “I’m proud of all of us growing as a team. It’s never really one person who outshines everyone else but everybody has room to grow in some capacity.” The team’s hard work certainly paid off. At the Orange County competition, they placed third in division two and second in super quiz, earning a collective 33 medals. Next year, the decathletes will be studying Technology and Humanity, the 2023-2024 theme. There are no requirements to join the team. According to Mrs. Nguyen-Valdez, academic decathlon welcomes anyone “who wants to learn something outside of that normal school curriculum or people who feel like they are part of a team and belong.” “Everybody is super nice and welcoming,” said Nguyen-Valdez. “We help each other even when we don’t understand or have trouble understanding. We are a group of people who are willing to support each other and anybody can fit into this environment.” This will pave the way for the next years ACADECA’s and many years in the future.