Cambridge High School defies stereotypes with academic accolades

February 7, 2013 12:48:51 AM PST
The Academic Decathlon tends to be the domain of privileged schools whose star students enroll in a special class to help them master the material and earn college credit. Yet, Fresno County's "Most Improved Team" comes from a continuation school, a campus for students considered at-risk of not graduating at a normal pace. This year, participants are defying stereotypes.

"When people think of continuation school or Alt. Ed. (Alternative Education), they think those are the bad students and it's not true," said Cambridge Academic Decathlon Coach and Science Teacher, Elva Carlos. "They're just credit deficient. That's it. They may have made bad choices along the way. We don't know why, everyone has their story, but that doesn't mean they can't learn and compete academically with other people."

In fact, Coach Carlos said each student studied on their own time, often working long hours and through holiday breaks to eventually earn nine medals at the county competition, five of them gold.

"When they called Cambridge High School I was in shock," she said. "I think I fell off my chair. I just couldn't believe what was going on."

On Saturday, the team also increased its overall score by 18% over last year and medaled in several events for the first time in school history.

"I didn't believe I was going to get as many medals as I did this year," said senior Aaron Bankston. "I got first place in science and language, literature, arts and a bronze medal in social science. It feels good there's a reward that comes out of this."

An award, as well as recognition, his teammate Elijah Jones said, for the team's hard work.

"I was one of the students who thought I'm not cut out for this, and so many times throughout the year I thought this isn't for me, but if it weren't for my team and my family and Ms. Carlos pushing me, I don't think I'd have the medal I do now," he said.

A medal displaying determination. And while the team may be made up of continuation school students, their journey is just beginning.

"A lot of the support we got from the Academic Decathlon community and especially Bullard High School. Our fan base was just seven people at the competition and when we won the trophy, I'll never forget hearing Bullard High School get up and start cheering for our kids. We were holding our own and it was really nice to hear the other coaches tell me your kids are doing such a good job," said Carlos. "I like being the underdog. It's fun because you have nothing to prove and these kids just wanted to go out there and compete."


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