MACON – Mercer University Upward Bound's Scholar's Bowl team brought home the first-place trophy from the 2015 Student Leadership Conference, sponsored by the state TRIO professional association, the Georgia Association of Special Programs Personnel (GASPP). The competition took place at Georgia Southern University in November.
Team members included Katie Birt (captain) and Alexandria Maddox of Westside High School, Aaron Yates of Howard High School, and Darius Moye and Ikeia Moore of Central High School.
The annual Scholar's Bowl pits Upward Bound programs across Georgia against each other to test students' knowledge of various topics, such as math, English, history, pop culture and sports.
Simeon Cullens, Mercer sophomore and Upward Bound alumnus, coached the team to victory this year.
“We were kind of nervous because we lost match four (out of eight), but I remembered how my coach motivated me; so I reassured them that we knew what we were doing,” Cullens said.
Cullens competed in the Scholar's Bowl when he was a member of the Upward Bound program during his junior and senior years of high school, but experienced the competition differently as a coach.
“The adrenaline is very different. As a part of the competition, you are focused on the questions and the other team. As the coach, I wasn't really concerned about the other team, more about my team and making sure they were good,” Cullens said.
Cullens said that now that the team has won the state competition, its focus is regionals, and practice will become even more difficult for the students.
Kimberly Flanders, assistant director of Mercer's Upward Bound program, said she was proud of the team's accomplishments thus far. “These students are really bright and have a great future ahead of them. They were very disappointed when they lost at the regional competition last year. However, they were excited to start over and prove to themselves that they could succeed,” she added.
Mercer University Upward Bound, a Federal TRIO Program under the leadership of Executive Director Dr. Michelle Currie, is funded 100 percent by a U.S. Department of Education grant in the amount of $603,588 annually. The program's purpose is to assist disadvantaged high school students to graduate high school and enter college.