Club Spotlight: Academic Decathlon


Image Courtesy of AcDec Instagram Page

Academic Decathlon at El Rancho High School in 2020

Linsey Towles, The Scroll, Co-Editor in Chief

Famed for its position in the Top 10 in Los Angeles County for the past two years, family-like dynamic, and snacking sessions, Academic Decathlon (AcDec) is a program at Saugus High School that promotes academic achievement and social skills. 

Containing 18 members this year and under the advisory of Saugus English teacher Jodi Guerrero, AcDec meets every 7th period. Most of class time is spent in preparation for the competition season, as students are given study packets pertaining to each subject and implement different study skills.  

“In AcDec, there is a subject for everyone. Art, science, social studies, music, literature, economics and math, as well as our verbal categories,” said co-Captain and senior Brooke Risley, who was motivated to join the club sophomore year by the famous Mathlets scene in the movie “Mean Girls” and by the club’s previous captain. Students are encouraged to focus and excel at three categories throughout the semester before competitions, where students will then be tested on their knowledge of all 7. 

According to Risley, AcDec competitions typically take place over the course of two weekends, the first being centered around formal speech and interview, and the second being testing. Students are given seven 50 question multiple choice tests, timed to thirty minutes about a different subject before moving onto the essay portion. Finally, the event ends with the Super Quiz, where teams are separated into academic GPA brackets and answer live questions to receive points. 

2020 AcDec Banquet (Image Courtesy of AcDec Instagram page )

In 2019, AcDec received runner-up for Los Angeles County, and has remained in the Top 10 for the past two years.  

“On the day of competition we wake up early and hang out on discord, talking about how everything is going to go and just generally being friends because AcDec is a group that isn’t just a class, it’s friends for your entire high school career,” said co-Captain and senior David Kayne who joined AcDec as a freshman upon being invited by a friend to a meeting.  

Souliman, co-Captain of AcDec and senior, commented on his experience in competitions: “The energy in the gym during our Super Quiz event with everyone screaming and waving their flags is pretty surreal at times.” Souliman was encouraged to become engaged in the club by the captains and the collaborative learning environment.  

Among the variety of abilities that can be developed through the program, social and communication skills seem to be the most agreed upon area of improvement: “AcDec has made an impact in my social development and confidence more than anything,” said Kayne. “My confidence grew steadily thanks to some of the preparations we do for the competitions.”

Risley agreed that verbal communication has been the greatest skill she has developed since joining AcDec, with the impromptu speech, formal interview and regular memorized speech events contributing to her ability to articulate thoughts and speech. 

Teamwork and collaboration also play a large role in AcDec, as every person’s performance is considered in the overall placing of the team. “I would say that the skill I’ve gained or improved the most this year would be my teamwork skills,” said sophomore Camille Wiener. “AcDec is a team, so we all work together to do well in our competitions.” Wiener heard about the AcDec club when she was in junior high, and joined knowing it was something she had always wanted to do. 

AcDec medals presented at competitions (Image Courtesy of AcDec Instagram page)

While the COVID-19 pandemic and distance learning has taken a toll on some programs and extracurriculars, AcDec remains focused and connected: “Using Zoom and discord, I’d even say the team is more connected now than ever before,” said Souliman. “Our competition is online, so it’s been a little hard adjusting to do some of our more social events like Speech and Interview, but we’re preparing like it’s a normal season.” 

As of now, AcDec’s first competitions of the 2020-2021 season are expected to take place across three weekends in January and February. Due to COVID-19, the events will take place in an online format.  

With the upcoming competition season approaching, AcDec cannot accept any new competitors, but interested individuals can contact advisor Guerrero here for more information. While those who join now cannot compete in this year’s competitions, they can have the opportunity to work as assistant coaches, managing and preparing for next year’s season. 

“Academic Decathlon is filled with extreme diversity from students all across Saugus,” commented Risley on why students should join. “It is extremely educational and nationally recognized, looking amazing on college applications.” 

While AcDec provides students the opportunity to develop study skills and learn about a number of different subjects, it also provides a place for socializing with peers: “I honestly can’t stress enough how much AcDec has helped me as a whole, I’ve been doing better as a person and feel like I know people I can depend on that I only met through AcDec,” said Kayne.  

Wiener added,“I think it’s a great way to meet new people and become more involved in school.”

Click here for the Saugus AcDec Instagram account.