In the Classroom

Renaissance High students headed to national academic decathlon finals

A dozen students from Renaissance High School are spending hours – often late into the night – studying math, physics, music, literature and other subjects as they prepare to compete in the United States Academic Decathlon National Finals next month.

Renaissance High School in Meridian, which opened in 2009, won its first state academic decathlon title earlier this month and will represent Idaho in the national scholastic competition in Garden Grove, Calif., April 16-18.

The school uses the International Baccalaureate program, which had a rigorous global emphasis.

Academic decathlon teams compete in 10 events, including giving a speech and essay writing. Competing teams aren’t made up just of a school’s top academic students. They must come from a variety of GPA levels.

The team’s road to Garden Grove is filled with countless nights of reading, quizzing each other, sending late night e-mails and studying topics with which students may not be familiar.

Mackenzie Lee, 17, is studying physics, nuclear chemistry and electrical chemistry. “I never took a physics class,” Lee said. So has read 100 to 200 pages of material supplied by the National Academic Decathlon to get stronger knowledge in advance of the competition.

Milan Sengthep, an 18-year-old senior, is expanding her music knowledge, such as music theory, to be ready for the event.

Many of the students, including Lee, Sengthep and Dylan Card, spend two to four hours a night doing homework for school, then put in another two to three hours on Academic Decathlon preparation. In addition, they meet on weekends to study for the competition.

The challenge appeals to these kids who love to pursue knowledge. “We are good at this kind of testing,” Card, a 17-year-old Renaissance senior said.

“They are going to do very well,” said Jerry Helgeson, Idaho Academic Decathlon state director. “These kids are exceptional.”

Academics is only part of the challenge for these students. They must also raise money to pay their way to the competition.

Families have put up airfare, but the students are still about $2,500 short. They’ve been selling Krispy Kreme donut cards that can get consumer free donuts for every dozen they purchase, and selling Mother’s Day flower baskets.

They also are raising money through Gofundme.

For more information on how you can help, contact Helgeson at 724-9545.

Renaissance students attending the finals are Mackenzie Lee (Captain), Milan Sengthep (Co-Captain), Dylan Card (Treasurer/Secretary), Basel Anani, Yazan Anani, Hari Gopalakrishnan, Kayla Bright, Eli Rott, Justin Schmidt, Sue Vanasouk, Cayden Bullock and Matthew Healy.