They haven't even made it out of elementary school yet, but more than 30 Fayette County students got a jump-start on their college educations Tuesday night.
More than $500,000 in scholarships was awarded to winners of the 2015 Academic Challenge Superintendent's Cup competition.
The top teams of students from throughout the school district answered questions about math, science, language arts, social studies, arts and humanities and practical living and vocational skills in the finals of the challenge, held in Norsworthy Auditorium at the Fayette County school district's central office.
In the primary division, a team of six second- and third-graders from Rosa Parks Elementary took home the Superintendent's Cup, along with scholarships to Georgetown College. Team members were Chakrapani Gudlavalleti, Victoria Lamarche, Evan Sammons, Harshith Tummala, Tarun Sitaraman and Danni Yang.
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A team of fourth- and fifth-graders from Cassidy Elementary won the cup in the intermediate division and were awarded scholarships to Morehead State University. Team members were Richelle Barnett, Blake Blanton, Lilly Clifford, Frank Payne, Jada Turley and James Winkler.
Michelle Barnett, whose daughter Richelle was on the Cassidy team, said it was a sacrifice for the children to get up early in the mornings to get to practice, but it was very much worth the effort.
"It really motivates them to keep on working hard," she said.
That is precisely the reason Academic Challenge was formed 11 years ago, through a partnership among the school system, One Community One Voice and the Urban League. Alice Nelson, who coordinates Academic Challenge for the school district, said one of the primary goals of the program was to encourage students who might not otherwise think they could attend college.
"The idea of giving scholarships to such young children is to give them the opportunity to invest in their education," she said.
In addition to the team awards, scholarships were awarded to individual students who competed in math and science and in writing competitions.
Winners took home scholarships such as four years' tuition to Kentucky State University, $20,000 over four years at the University of Kentucky, a year's tuition at Bluegrass Community and Technical College and $12,000 over four years at Eastern Kentucky University.
The competition has grown a lot over the years. A record 1,742 students participated throughout the district this season.