Faces of Academic Bowl

April 1, 2017


ALEX: Hello! Tomorrow morning is the opening match of the 2017 Academic Bowl National Tournament. There have been regional competitions with teams in the U.S. and Canada — and now the top 20 teams are coming to Gallaudet University to determine who will be the national champion. 


Yesterday I interviewed several people who were a former player, coach, on the committee, or a founding member of the tournament — various people who were involved with Academic Bowl — I asked them questions about their experience, perspectives, what made it unique, and its impact. Check out the various interviews! 



DANIEL: Hello! I’m Daniel Girard. I’ve been involved with AB for three years. I’m currently the Coordinator of Youth Programs Operations. 


[Image of Daniel saying, “ready?”]


JESSE: I’m Jesse Saunders. I”m the director of Youth Programs here at Gallaudet. I’ve been involved with AB for 14 years. 1 year as a player, 5 years as a coach, and 8 years here at Gallaudet. 


[Image of Jesse greeting an audience at a regional tournament] 


TAYLA: Hello, I’m Tayla Newman. I’m a Youth Programs Student Assistant. I am also a former AB player for Maryland School for the Deaf.


[Image of Tayla with her teammates at MSD]


EDGAR: My name is Edgar. My friends call me Bernie — Palmer. I was the first tournament director for the AB. 


[Image of Edgar posing for a picture with GU President Cordano] 


BETH: I’m Dr. Beth Benedict. I’ve been a long-time professor at Gallaudet. I now work with the recruitment, admissions, youth programs, and outreach departments. Under the Youth Programs department, I focus on AB. 


[Image of Beth talking to a AB team with GU President Cordano] 


NIKOLYA: Hello, my name is Nikolya. I’m a Youth Programs Student Assistant. I’m a former player for EDCO. 


[Image of Nikolya competing with her teammates] 


BOB: Hello, my name is Bob Weinstock. I’ve been involved with the AB for 21 years, since its founding 21 years ago. I have varying roles, but my primary role is the chief Gallaudet Officer and I’m involved with developing and editing questions. 


[Image of Bob posing for a picture with GU President Cordano] 

PABLO: Hi, I’m Pablo Gonzalez, Jr. I’m on the committee. I’m a former player from the Marlton school. 


[Image of Pablo posing for a picture with his teammates] 


DEBRA: My name is Debra Lawson. I’ve worked with Academic Bowl from the beginning.


[Image of Debra in an older-era program book as a Director] 


JOSEPH: I’m Joseph. I’m the coordinator of the National Academic Bowl Committee. I’m from New York — Rome New York Deaf School. 


[Image of Joseph posing with his AB teammates] 


SHEILYN: Hi, I’m Sheilyn. I’m a former player at the Edmonds-Woodway High School, a mainstream program in Washington State. I’m now a Youth Programs mentor. 


[Image of Sheilyn competing with her teammates] 


DANIEL: We work with four regions. 

JESSE: Teams come from two different countries. 

DANIEL: We have 83 different teams.

JESSE: 330 players.

DANIEL: 160 coaches.

JESSE: Over 600 volunteers. 

DANIEL: Over 2,500 alumni. 

JESSE: Very little sleep, for your information.

DANIEL: and plenty of Red Bull! 

JESSE: That’s how big this is! 


[Images of various AB competition settings]


TAYLA: My favorite memory is winning the 2012 National Championship with my team. 


JESSE: My favorite memory is winning the National Championship way back then when I was as student at California School for the Deaf, Fremont in 1998 — before most current AB players were born. It really makes me feel old! 


[Image of Jesse smiling with his teammates] 


NIKOLYA: My favorite memory is when, in 2015, my team won the regional championship. My team was so happy and cheering. I almost cried. It’s a good memory. 


EDGAR: The first year the students were a lot smarter than we realized. So we had to make the questions tougher. 


BOB: I think our competition is tougher than the hearing world’s competitions — because when hearing people pronounce answers — they might say it “wrong” — but it is still accepted. While with us Deaf people, we have to spell it right — if it’s spelled incorrectly, then it’s wrong, period. 


BETH: AB is… so special because it is truly unique. Do you know of any other competitions based on knowledge? Most other are based on sports — while this is mental. It can be a sport in itself, really. 


DANIEL: AB is awesome in that students from all over the country, even Canada, come together to compete with each other, interact, meet each other, and make lasting friendships. 


JOSEPH: I’m from a small school. Yes, I’m a Deaf person, but I didn’t really discover my identity until I entered the AB competition — I met students from bigger Deaf schools, socialized with them — I got that simulation and I really realized how much personal growth I got throughout my career. 


JESSE: I see that AB has a huge impact on mainstream students. They are often alone or in small classrooms — and when they come in the competition, they realize there are many other smart students are like them. It makes them very motivated to enter college and become successful in life. 


DEBRA: AB has a huge impact on coaches, schools, players… each player from schools might think they are the brightest, that they are the best, that they are this and that. And when they compete, they realize that there are many other smart Deaf and HoH students, too. They realize they are not the “only bright kid.” It was cool to see that. 


SHEILYN: AB is unique because that’s where players from high schools all over the U.S. can come together to increase their knowledge, social life, network — and after graduation, when you go to Gallaudet University, you meet many former students. That’s something I love. 


BETH: As a mother of a daughter who played in the AB — whenever I watched matches, I would get so many butterflies in my stomach because of the intense competition. And I would be so nervous on if it was the correct or wrong answer. 


EDGAR: When we started in 1997, I imagined it would grow and expand. I knew students were hungry for that kind of attention. 


PABLO: I didn’t know what “sportsmanship” was — until my school won the award. It made me realize it was about leadership, how to have relationships with people… that was the impact on me when we won that award. 


DEBRA: We saw the increasing levels of difficulty of the questions — and the coaches said we would go back to our schools and we would talk with the principals or the superintendents and discuss how we could improve the curriculums at the schools. I thought, “wow, that’s a huge impact — to see students’ curriculums improve.” That was cool. 


BETH: Raise the bar. Elevate expectations. Teachers, parents, even players often look at others and think, “oh, they know that much.” So they go back to schools and study harder. 


TAYLA: I like to see many Deaf people who like trivia come together in one place. 


BOB: The difficulty levels of the questions are interesting — usually it’s easier during the first day but slowly becomes more difficult. On the second day (tomorrow), they are more difficult up to the Championship match — it’s at the ultimate difficulty. 


NIKOLYA: AB really increased my appreciation for knowledge, education, and trivia. The things that I studied back then — I still remember today. I see questions pop up that I can remember and answer from when I was a competitor. 


SHEILYA: From being a former player to being a mentor today, there is a different perspective because as a player you had to sit, compete, and increase your knowledge. Now as a mentor, I see the growth in the students and they are inspired. Seeing their motivation with AB is something I really love. 


ALEX: Wow, you can see the big impact that AB has. To let you know — I used to play in the AB for the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. We were the National Champions in 2002. It is one of my favorite memories. 


Now, good luck to the 20 teams competing. 


[Series of images of all 20 teams that will play] 


ALEX: Follow “The Daily Moth” on Facebook and “Gallaudet University Youth Programs” to see various updates with this tournament. 



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