It should be easy to spot those who, seven years ago, handed out four-year scholarships to fourth- and fifth-grade winners of the first Academic Challenge Superintendent's Cup.
They are the ones with the broad smiles and a sense of fulfillment usually reserved for parents. Two of those winners, Krista Parr and Mason Womack, now Henry Clay High School seniors, have been accepted at the University of Kentucky and could receive $2,500 a semester, renewable each year, if they enroll.
The academic challenge was created by One Community, One Voice, a volunteer group formed at the urging of the African American Education Coalition to focus on closing the achievement gap.
Longtime chairman Arnold Gaither said he wanted One Community, One Voice, which started in 2002, to do more than create a report, have a press conference and then put the report on a shelf to be forgotten. He wanted a program that would help students and parents stay engaged in the education process.
"This is the one thing I take the most pride in," Gaither said.
The academic challenge requires students who join one of the many teams from 34 elementary schools to meet weekly to practice questions in subjects such as math, science, social studies and language arts. Most schools send more than one team, each with four to six students.
The number of students involved has grown from fewer than 200 during the 2005-06 school year to nearly 2,000.
Traffic was backed up for miles for last year's competition at Bryan Station High School, said Karolyn Kell, project consultant for One Community, One Voice. "We don't have a building large enough to hold it anymore," she said.
So this year, the competition leading up to the finals was separated into two divisions in three regions. The top three winners in each region's primary division (second and third grades) and intermediate division (fourth and fifth grades) were decided March 9. Those winners will face off in the Superintendent's Cup beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Norsworthy Auditorium of Fayette County Public Schools central offices.
Winners in the team competition and in individual writing-on-demand and math and science competitions will receive scholarships this year to UK, Morehead State University, Kentucky State University, Eastern Kentucky University, Georgetown College or Bluegrass Community and Technical College.
In a random drawing, one student is chosen to receive a scholarship to Murray State University.
Kell said that 21 one-year scholarships to BCTC and 185 four-year scholarships to the other schools have been awarded so far.
In each tournament, three teams, one from each region, compete at a time. The moderator reads a question, the teams huddle and then write down their answer. Each round offers 20 questions in core-content subject areas.
In addition to individual college scholarships, Gaither said, a $1,000 Student of Promise scholarship will be given to the elementary school with the most impoverished student enrollment.
"Instead of calling them disadvantaged or Title I, they are 'students of promise,' " Gaither said.
The money can be used for resource materials for that school, he said.
The competition has served its purpose to keep students and parents focused on education, Kell said. "Every child who is interested can participate," she said. "There are no requirements. By competing in teams, they share their knowledge before giving their answers. They all must agree."
Plus, parents must be committed to getting their children to practices and to scrimmages with teams out of their regions, prior to the regional competitions.
With both parents and students vested in education, it is understandable why One Community, One Voice members are smiling.
IF YOU GO
One Community, One Voice Academic Challenge Superintendent's Cup finals
When: 5:30 p.m. March 26
Where: Fayette County Public Schools It's About Kids Support Services Center's Norsworthy Auditorium, 701 E. Main St.
Learn more: Email email@example.com or call (859) 381-4307
Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.