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Volunteers give boost to Academic Decathlon

By From page A2 | February 06, 2014

Our big North Bay Region Academic Decathlon has come and gone yet another year.

It takes a host of volunteers to make this big event for high school students from four North Bay counties happen. These dedicated volunteers from all walks of life get up bright and early to volunteer on two consecutive Saturdays and they always come through for us. Some will go on to work at the state competition in Sacramento in March.

“Without our Academic Decathlon volunteer team, we would truly not have a program,” said Ken Scarberry, Solano County Office of Education director of youth development and executive director of the California Academic Decathlon.

I loved speaking to several enthusiastic Fairfield residents about their first-time experience as decathlon volunteers.

I asked Ray Johnson, a retired 37-year Air Force officer and corporate administrator in the business world for many years, how his day went. “It was a distinct honor to judge the prepared and impromptu speeches of such well-prepared, bright and inspirational students. They shared their views on many topics such as potential cancer cures, stimulating global economic growth, and the impact of climate change. Other topics included a number of civil rights issues such as equal work for equal pay, repressive voting and other substantive issues that we adults should be seriously discussing,” he said.

“The event was well-organized and supported by volunteers throughout our community and elsewhere. I was highly impressed and will participate again if requested,” Johnson said.

Stuart ‘Stu” Travis, a former officer in several top companies and the founder (now retired) of his own dot-com company, along with his wife Stephanie, jokingly (I think) asked, “What is the pay”? He added that he was not known as the volunteering type. But without too much begging on my part, he agreed to be an interview judge. He was a great asset to my team and plans to go to Sacramento in March.

“The pay remains nonexistent, but I have learned that there is an excellent return on the invested time with a feeling of having made a contribution and enjoying the process,” Travis said.

Betty Silva retired as a Fairfield-Suisun School District media teacher after 31 years. She served as president of the California Library Association, and is currently involved with the California Association of Retired Teachers as well as a number of other organizations. She still works some as an independent contractor for a library software company.

Silva didn’t work directly with students but loved working in the test center and had high praise for the command center staff. She plans to go to the state competition to again work in the test center and has the 2015 regional competition on her calendar.

I recently talked to Jeff Baggett, immediate past president of the Fairfield-Suisun noontime Rotary Club, and he shared that his club has been involved with the Solano Academic Decathlon for a dozen-plus years.

“As a service organization that gives back to the community, this was a hands-on project that directly benefited the local high school kids and gave our members that feeling of contributing to our community,” he said. On one of the Saturdays, his club serves a noontime meal of hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers along with chips, cookies and drinks for students, staff and all the volunteers.

“The Academic Decathlon is an event that brings together 20 to 30 Rotary members as volunteers”, Suzanne Bragdon, current president of the noontime club and city manager in Suisun City, said in an email. “This was the first hands-on event I participated in eight years ago and what a wonderful way to get to know our fellow club members outside the regular meeting.”

Rotarian John Unger, from the same club and a local family law attorney, has volunteered for many years as our decathlon Super Quiz master and our countywide Spelling Bee pronouncer. He has done an excellent job for many years and we couldn’t do it without him.

A special thanks goes out to all of our volunteers. We couldn’t do it without them, either. I look forward to seeing them in Sacramento in March. For more information about volunteering, please call Scarberry at 707-646-7603.

Mayrene Bates is a trustee on the Solano County Board of Education.

Mayrene Bates

Mayrene Bates is a trustee with the Solano County Board of Education.

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