Here’s a quiz for you: What form of government does Russia officially have?
c) Communist republic
That question kicked off the 13th annual Academic WorldQuest hosted by the World Affairs Council of San Antonio on March 4. More than 150 students representing 21 San Antonio schools filled a large conference room at Rackspace.
Seated in teams of four, the students spent most of the day huddled over their tables speaking in hushed and urgent tones. Overhead, an imposing clock counted down the one minute allowed for each answer.
The competition was divided into 10 rounds of 10 multiple choice questions each. Teams had one minute to mark each answer until the end of the round when answer sheets were collected and scored. Every two or three rounds, the answers to previous rounds would be read allowed, triggering a chorus of “awwww,” “yessssss,” and whispered, “I told you!”
Dan Goodgame, Rackspace vice president of executive communications, welcomed the teenagers and encouraged them to build on their interest in world events and politics. He suggested they should become literate in programming and Internet development because the booming marketplace of the future will be at the intersection of government agencies and the Internet – and business has been globalizing for decades. He cited Rackspace as an example of a business with offices, clients, and employees around the world.
“We’re hiring like crazy, and we want to hire you,” Goodgame said.
He may have some takers on that offer. While waiting in line in the cafeteria during a break, one students said, “This place is so cool. I totally want to work here.”
Goodgame made mention of some of Rackspace’s “cooler” clients familiar to the teens. The mention of social networking site Tinder drew a stream of snickers – one of the few breaks in stoic professionalism from the mature group of teens. The only other moment of giggling was over the pronunciation of “Djibouti” in one of the later rounds.
The answer to the first question, by the way, is b) Federation.
The questions only grew tougher from there – by the end I felt a sense of civic embarrassment and the need to go spend time reading some UN reports.
The high schoolers seemed to fare much better. Most of the schools participating were from the northside or private schools, but SAISD was well-represented with two teams from Jefferson High School. The Future Business Club and Military Science and Public Service magnet both competed. For them, the topics directly related to their interests and studies. However, the students felt like the material was universal. Categories like “Youth, Jobs, and Social Unrest” seemed particularly pertinent.
“I think people should be more interested in these topics,” said John Mendoza of Jefferson HS.
Scores weren’t revealed until the end when the winners were announced, but the teams stayed well aware of their own progress.
The first three rounds were read by Beth Costello, the president of the World Affairs Council of San Antonio. She reiterated the organizations to goal to “bring the world to San Antonio and bring San Antonio to the world.”
The students will have an opportunity to contribute to both aspects of that goal. The winner of the competition will go to the national WorldQuest competition in Washington D.C., where a team from the Keystone School placed second last year.
The Zachry Corporation will also make it possible for the students to attend the World Affairs Council of San Antonio’s next luncheon with Ambassador Thomas Shannon at the San Antonio Country Club on March 24.
The World Affairs Council brings in many heavy hitting supporters, especially for these youth-oriented events.
Rackspace got its personnel involved in the competition as well. Jason Hopkins, global talent brand manager for Rackspace, read questions for rounds four and five on the future of energy and “Africa rising.” He towered over the podium and served as a hip ambassador for the tech industry to the students.
By the time the break rolled around after round five, the competition was heating up, and the teens were more vocal as questions were read. The momentum continued to build over the next rounds as students answered questions on human trafficking, Asia and the new global economy, the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, and more.
The questions were developed by the National World Affairs Council for the 41 local competitions around the country. Winners of the local rounds have the chance to compete in the national competition in Washington D.C. on April 24-25.
By the end of the day the kids had used their brains to the best of their ability and all that was left was to wait for the final score.
The final results marked another good year for the Keystone School, with teams finishing in the top two spots. O’Connor HS (NISD) took 3rd and 5th, and Clark HS (NISD) came in 4th.
All of the students spent the day thinking big. They visited the campus of one of the city’s leading businesses, participated in a nationwide competition, and proved that San Antonio high schoolers are serious about understanding their world.
*Featured/top image: The team from Jefferson High School listens to the answers read aloud at the World Affairs Council of San Antonio’s Academic WorldQuest. Photo by Bekah McNeel.