Youngsters Test Their Smarts at African American Male Academic Bowl
Like any team prepping for a bowl game, Scoggins Middle School’s Team 7B put in long hours of practice.
But instead of laps or pushups, the Frisco teammates drilled each other on questions from civil rights to science to get in shape for the seventh annual African American Male Academic Bowl at UT Dallas. When it was time to compete in the quiz show-style tournament, there weren’t many questions they couldn’t answer.
Seventh-graders Caden Bedford-Crandell, Josiah Hartman and Cedron Webb won the middle school division championship after racking up the highest score each round. In the elementary division, the team from Townsell Elementary School in Irving took the top prize.
Each of the winners received a laptop, while second-place teams got tablets.
The academic bowl included teams from schools and organizations across North Texas.
Speakers included Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, UT Dallas president ad interim, and Dr. Joe May, chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District, who welcomed participants at the beginning of the event.
The University hosted the event with partners including the Dallas County Community College District, Project Still I Rise Inc., AT&T, McDonald’s and Texas Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas.
West, honorary chair and longtime supporter, spoke to the audience before the final round of the bowl and encouraged the top two middle school teams.
“We want to make sure these boys have some form of resource that is showing them that yes, you can succeed in education, that it’s OK to learn and it’s not OK to drop out.”
“This event serves as great motivation for these young men to help in molding their futures and in their pursuit of academic success. While we are all familiar with sports and other forms of extracurricular competition, a competition pitting mental prowess helps to build study skills that will lead to long-term success,” West said. “The Academic Bowl helps keep them focused on achievement in the classroom and on establishing high academic goals. My own goals for this event would be to see it sustained, continue to grow and eventually expand into a statewide competition.”
The academic bowl was established to promote academic achievement among students in grades 4 through 8. David Robinson Jr., the bowl’s founder and assistant director of community engagement in the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement, said the program aims to counter a high risk of dropping out.
“We want to make sure these boys have some form of resource that is showing them that yes, you can succeed in education, that it’s OK to learn and it’s not OK to drop out,” Robinson said.
Participation in the bowl has grown, with 41 three-member teams this year. Seven of them were from Scoggins.
Barbara Warner, the Frisco school’s principal, said the teams met with volunteer coach Kevin Porter and counselor Christie Combest for regular study sessions. Warner said the event gives students a chance to build leadership skills, gain a sense of belonging and learn more about African-American history.
“This is an opportunity for our students to see themselves as scholars. A lot of our kids are very comfortable identifying themselves as athletes or musicians, but sometimes they don’t understand that there are academic competitions as well,” Warner said. “I like the college atmosphere, too. We want them to be exposed to that as much as possible.”
Academic Bowl contestants heard firsthand how much the event made a difference in two former participants’ lives. Kevin Mondy Jr. and Charles Jones, who volunteered at this year’s bowl and made remarks at the opening session, are now seniors at Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy in Dallas. Both plan to study engineering and have been accepted by multiple top schools.
“Stay true to who you want to be. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” Mondy told the younger men in the audience.
Jones offered this advice: Listen.
“It may not sound like the best idea at the moment, but as you get older you realize what (teachers) were trying to accomplish. I couldn’t see that when I was young because I was hardheaded and ignorant,” Jones said. “I thought I knew everything and you don’t. It’s a matter of listening and studying. School’s a really big part of where you can go in life.”
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].