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Black History Bowl Draws Enthusiastic Audience

SMS team at AVID bowl For the twelfth year, all four middle schools in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools sent teams of AVID students to the Black History Knowledge Bowl, hosted by the local chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (AKA). This year the bowl took place on Feb. 29 at McDougle Middle School (MMS), and for the third year in a row, MMS brought home the first place trophy. But all four teams exhibited a strong grasp of information related to African American culture, sports, history and politics.

Frances Graham is president of the Chapel Hill Chapter of Mu Omicron Omega of AKA Sorority. She said, “We believe the Black History Knowledge Bowl is a trifecta in that it engages our future leaders, increases awareness about the rich history and accomplishments of African Americans, and provides an excellent opportunity for students, faculty, and the community to honor and celebrate America's history.”

Although there were numerous community and CHCCS events held that Saturday, the attendance at the Bowl was substantial. Tables in the MMS cafeteria were filled with students, their families and friends, as well as many members of the Mu Omicron Omega Chapter of AKA. The morning’s program opened with a Poetry Slam, a new feature this year. Students shared their original pieces, and MMS student, Aylin Velasco-Panteleon, won first place, with Ashylah Foster from Smith Middle School taking second place. MMS poetry slam winner

Graham said, “The Poetry Slam is a new component of the Black History Knowledge Bowl. We tested it out this year to determine if we want to keep it as part of that event or create a separate event with the poetry slam as the primary focus.  The purpose of the Poetry Slam was to expose students to arts enrichment and culture and to showcase the students’ talents.”

MMS eighth grade student, Hugo Bautista, has competed every year. “I chose to participate in the Black History Knowledge Bowl because Black History is American history, and I enjoy learning about it,” Bautista said. “Usually, we talk about the Founding Fathers, the American Revolution, or something of that sort, but we don't learn about the people behind the scenes. I learned about so many revolutionary things African Americans did that I would have never thought of.”


AVID teachers at BHK Bowl AVID Teacher, Karen Herring, at MMS, said, “I would agree 100% with what Hugo had to say. This is America's History. Let's teach this throughout the year. Our preparation starts about mid-January. Most of my students on the team have done this for three years now. They are usually asking about the questions before I even get them. What I found that works is to have students who are committed to learning the material. Of course we have a strategy that works for us, but the kids genuinely love to be together and support each other. We take at least four Fridays after school (when we don't get wind or snow interrupting our time) and eat and work. We are like a big family, so students don't mind carrying the load for each other.”

The second place team was from Phillips Middle School (PMS), whose AVID Teacher is Rob Frescoln. Sixth grade student, Umi Ford said, “The knowledge bowl was sooooo fun! Studying for it was also fun. I made flashcards, timelines and maps that I color-coded and labeled. Every Tuesday we met as a team and tested our knowledge, then got Jolly Ranchers and lollipops. At the event, there was a bunch of food. When we actually started the competition, I wasn't nervous, because I knew half the people there by name. Afterward, everyone got a prize, a certificate and was congratulated, whether they won or not."

The team from Culbreth Middle School is led by AVID teacher, Jessie Grinnell, and Eric Zeigler leads the team from Smith Middle School. The competition was stiff throughout the rounds of questions, and more than one student could be heard telling parents and peers that next year the seasoned winners from MMS will finally be in high school!

“The members of the Chapel Hill Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and the Ivy Hill Foundation enjoy hosting the event,” Graham said. “One of our goals is to create an opportunity for everyone in attendance to learn something new. The event encourages the efforts of the participants in their ability to consume a large volume of information in a short amount of time. It's exciting to watch the participants proudly share their responses and see the pride on their faces when they've given the correct response.  And, the beauty of this is the students will maintain these Black History facts for a lifetime! We truly appreciate the partnerships with the students, parents and Chapel Hill - Carrboro schools and teachers.”

PMS AVID student at Bowl

The AKA sorority was founded at Howard University in 1908, and the branch in Chapel Hill-Carrboro has been serving people in the community for almost 40 years. It was the first African American sorority, and its mission has always been to cultivate high academic and ethical standards, promote unity among women and be of “Service to All Mankind.” All across the country in February, AKA chapters organize Black History Knowledge Bowls for middle and high school students, in order to promote and expand the knowledge of aspects of America’s history that is so often neglected.

Can you answer these questions from the Bowl prep material?

“Harold Washington became what city’s first African American mayor?”

“Who founded an economic program called ‘People Limited to Save Humanity,’ known as Operation PUSH?”

“Apollo 16 used an ultraviolet camera designed by what African American?”