Young Scholars Match Wits at African American Male Academic Bowl
Scoggins Middle School seventh-graders Sam Mkumbo (from left), Armon Okoli and Sean Avery compete in the African American Male Academic Bowl at UT Dallas on Jan. 28. Scoggins entered 10 teams in the academic bowl, with one of them taking home the championship in the middle school division.
As six elementary students prepared for their final match at the 2017 African American Male Academic Bowl, a quiz show-style team competition held recently at UT Dallas, a proud parent and coach reflected on how his team got here.
“Community support is the biggest piece of it,” said Derrick Payne, who supervised the squad from Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet from Richardson ISD. “Several of my fraternity brothers, a retired Dallas ISD principal, a Garland city councilman, a retired IBM executive and veteran … these folks interrupted their day-to-day routines to make a difference in the lives of these young men. The kids have paid us back in triplicate by working so hard and doing so well.”
Forty-two teams of Dallas-Fort Worth area students in grades 4 to 8 comprised the largest field to date for the ninth annual event, which matches students’ wits on subjects including math, science, and African-American history and culture. Competing schools came from Dallas, Richardson, Carrollton, Frisco, DeSoto, Irving and other area cities.
The winning students in both divisions got laptops, while the runners-up got Kindle Fires. Dallas ISD’s Mark Twain Leadership Vanguard and Frisco ISD’s Scoggins left as elementary and middle school champions respectively; but the day’s objective was more important than solely determining who won.
“A lot of our young men are comfortable identifying themselves as athletes, but they really don’t see themselves as academics or scholars. When we select them for this team, they begin to see themselves differently.”
Jim Parsons, a volunteer adviser for Mark Twain, said his students devoted significant time outside of school on learning the material.
“They really surprise me because they learn far more than I taught them,” Parsons said. “We just kind of hone their knowledge, and try to give them the confidence and motivation to carry this through.”
Cliff Johnson Jr., president of the North Texas chapter of the Black McDonald’s Operators Association, explained why McDonald’s has sponsored the program for all nine years.
“What’s being done here needs to be done everywhere,” Johnson said. “The fact that there was that much enthusiasm for being smart — I thought that was the coolest thing in the world.”
Barbara Warner, the principal for repeat champion Scoggins, emphasized the importance of the event for intelligent students who may not excel academically.
“A lot of our young men are comfortable identifying themselves as athletes, but they really don’t see themselves as academics or scholars,” Warner said. “When we select them for this team, they begin to see themselves differently.”
Scoggins counselor Christie Combest, who oversees the Academic Bowl program at Scoggins, sees that effect first-hand.
“This event has changed the way that many of our students think about studying and academics,” Combest said. “We have students that have never been asked to be a part of anything like this and have embraced the concept completely. To see the smiles on their faces, and the sense of pride that they have about themselves, is why we do what we do.”
UT Dallas' Office of Diversity and Community Engagement hosts the event with partners AT&T, the Dallas County Community College District, Dallas Independent School District, Fort Worth Independent School District, Jackson State University, McDonald’s, National Society of Black Engineers, Project Still I Rise, Inc. and Texas Sen. Royce West.
Mark Twain Elementary School students Corey Hamilton (from left), Demarcus Banks and Jadarrion Waites compete in the African American Male Academic Bowl at UT Dallas on Jan. 28.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].