The Nebraska Academic Decathlon has many degrees of impact on all that participate. Whether that be the students, the parents, the coaches, the school administrators, and or the volunteers — seeing the progress and achievement of Nebraska’s youth provides a lasting and memorable impact.
Below you will see a variety of people’s perspectives on the program’s impact on them and how the program has guided their long-term career path and goals.
“The Academic Decathlon was the one place where it was not just okay to be smart — it was expected. The bio-ethics topic of one year spurred hours of debate that our normal classes wouldn’t have allowed. Our coach treated us like human beings with thoughts and opinions of our own, and we were allowed and encouraged to expand those opinions across the whole range of fields of human endeavor.”
“The Academic Decathlon taught me to focus more while studying and pay attention to detail. I can also testify to the program’s effect on other students. For instance, we had a Varsity student who ridiculed his own intelligence and laughed at our team’s chances. At State, that student won eight medals — one more than me — and earned the third-highest score overall on the team. He has since solidified his plans to attend college. I believe this is one of the best aspects of the Decathlon; it provides everyone with a level playing field and makes participants realize their full potential.”
Confiding with a teacher, a student said, “I don’t know why you invited me to compete in the Decathlon. As you know, I am not a very good student and was heavily involved in drugs. I want you to know that the Decathlon has given me a new reason for living and I have been off drugs for four months. I am studying harder in my other classes, my grades are improving in my classes and my counselor is trying to locate a college which will accept me.”
“I used to play sports when I was a kid, and I had a lot of fun. However, I never scored. AcaDeca is fantastic for me because I actually have a chance of winning. I never had that before. I don’t have medals because I’m smart. I have medals because I start studying during the summer. That’s one of the great things about AcaDeca. It isn’t about how smart you are, it is about how hard you work. I have been in AcaDeca for two years. I joined because I loved reading and learning, but there was a second reason. I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t stupid. I struggle a lot in my math and science classes. I sit there and feel horrible because everyone else understands it, but I don’t. Math obliterated my self-esteem. I struggled so much that I didn’t want to go to college because I thought I was too stupid. For me, AcaDeca was a safe haven. It was all reading, and that is what I liked. I understood it. Hearing my name called for a gold medal is one of the best things in my life, because sometimes I feel like the biggest loser. Though math is still a battle, I can leave the classroom with some self-esteem because I have AcaDeca. Thank you for putting so much of your time into AcaDeca. This program has helped prove to me that I am not stupid and worthless. Thank you for giving me self confidence, when I didn’t have any.”
“I see the Academic Decathlon as being by far the most outstanding academic-based competition that I have ever seen. Not only is there a definite course of study (so it is not just a trivia contest), but that a team’s success is not just dependent on a few gifted “A” students. To attract students with “B” and “C” averages to take pride in academics is part of the core of the success of the Decathlon. We have had kids with “C” averages who have become very academically minded. That, in itself, is a great measure of success — to make kids want to become learners who might not otherwise want to be learners.”
“My son graduated last spring, having participated in the Academic Decathlon during his entire high school career. It was his joy and salvation. Thanks to the program, he learned enough to score 4s and 5s on five or six AP exams in subjects he had no classes in — allowing him to begin at the University of Minnesota with second semester sophomore standing.”
“As academic competitions go, the Academic Decathlon is the Mount Everest, the moon landing, the fight against cancer and the Tour de France. Students choose to participate in this program, like these other labors, in order to make themselves better. The study materials they must read each year exceed War and Peace in length — by far. They have to study art and learn the fine points of music. They have to plow through difficult novels and learn to analyze nineteenth century poetry. They have to prepare for mind-numbing tests in economics, mathematics and science. They have to get dressed up and deliver speeches and undergo probing interviews. And they must prepare all ten of the Herculean tasks after they have completed their other high school studies. They do not do these tasks because they are easy, but because they are hard. These doers of today and leaders of tomorrow are learning, through their Academic Decathlon experiences that the solution to difficulty is through goal-setting, practice and preparation.”