(l-r) Emily Ye, Christ Zhu, Nabil Kapasi, and Katie Mansfield at Keystone School with their Academic WorldQuest trophies. Photo by Bekah McNeel
(l-r) Emily Ye, Christ Zhu, Nabil Kapasi, and Katie Mansfield at Keystone School with their Academic WorldQuest trophies. Photo by Bekah McNeel

Sports stories might dominate the epic competition genre, but four juniors from Keystone School are quietly proving that academic competitions have plenty to root for.

For the past two years the team made up of juniors Chris Zhu, Katie Mansfield, Emily Ye, and Nabil Kapasi has handily won the San Antonio regional Academic WorldQuest, and finished second at the national competition. This year, they came within one point of the championship.

While they have their eyes on a national championship next year, they are still pleased with their performance thus far.

(Pictured above, left to right) Katie Mansfield, Nabil Kapasi, Keystone Advisor Ray Boryczka, Chris Zhu, and Emily Ye at the San Antonio Academic WorldQuest March competition held at Rackspace. Photo by Larry Walther.
(Pictured above, left to right) Katie Mansfield, Nabil Kapasi, Keystone Advisor Ray Boryczka, Chris Zhu, and Emily Ye at the San Antonio Academic WorldQuest March competition held at Rackspace. Photo by Larry Walther.

The regional event was hosted by the World Affairs Council of San Antonio and held at Rackspace in March. There 21 schools competed for the chance to travel to Washington DC to compete in the national competition. Keystone sent two teams to the regional competition. The team of juniors placed first and the sophomores placed second.

While the competition was tighter at the April 25 finals, the Keystone team felt well prepared.

“I think our regional competition is good prep,” Zhu said.

During crunch time leading up to the national competition, the team committed to giving up three lunch periods per week to work together with their sponsor, Raymond Boryczka. Fortunately, they enjoy the time and camaraderie, which they credit for much of their success.

“We’re a good team. We like each other,” said Mansfield.

The team also likes the way that preparing for the WorldQuest competition pushes them deep into issues, so that they see the vast webs of cause and effect driving current and historical events. They have a more nuanced understanding of what they learn about in history class, and they can contribute to educated, reasoned discourse surrounding the daily news.

“It’s made me a more global citizen,” Mansfield said.

Each member of the team was responsible for becoming the resident expert in two or three of the WorldQuest topics. Ye, the team scribe, was responsible for human trafficking and environmental issues, both of which opened her eyes while she studied.

“It highlights the social problems in our world,” Ye said

What’s most remarkable chatting with the team is how at ease they feel talking about big issues, and at the same time teasing and making jokes. They aren’t data-heads. They are teenagers who love to learn and make connections. The Academic WorldQuest competition is something they do because they enjoy it, along with other typically teenage pursuits. Their normalcy seems to be part of their success.

“We all like to have fun, hang out, and play sports,” Kapasi said.

Their time in Washington DC kept the spirit of global, historical curiosity. Last year the team explored the Smithsonian Institution’s collections along the National Mall. This year they visited Ford’s Theater and took advantage of the city’s wide options for world cuisine.

The team is good natured and humble about their second place finish. It’s clear, however, that there’s a lot of intellectual horsepower under those hoods, and it would not be surprising in the least if they finished their senior year with a national championship.

*Featured/top image: From left: Emily Ye, Christ Zhu, Nabil Kapasi, and Katie Mansfield at Keystone School with their Academic WorldQuest trophies. Courtesy photo.

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Bekah McNeel

Bekah McNeel is a native San Antonian. You can also find her at her blog, FreeBekah.com, on Twitter @BekahMcneel, and on Instagram @wanderbekah.