Dec 16, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
After months of seeking, soliciting and waiting for at least one high school teacher to step forward and volunteer, the Cazenovia High School Academic Decathlon team now has two new advisors to help them through the 2013-14 competition year. With new advisors and a continued determination to return once again to the national competition — occurring in Hawaii this year — the team also has continued fundraising and seeking private sponsors to help pay the nearly $20,000 necessary to pay for the trip should they make it to the finals.
“I saw there was a need, and someone had to do it,” said new coach Ben Wightman, a 2007 CHS graduate, former AD team member and current district substitute teacher.
The Cazenovia High School AD team has been a powerhouse in New York state, advancing to nationals eight of the last nine years and being a source of pride for the district. During the 2012-13 school year, the team placed seventh in its division and 36th out of 53 national teams, with three members bringing home individual medals and awards.
That success came at a cost, however, when the team realized only weeks before nationals that it did not have enough funding to travel to the competition in Minneapolis, Minn., and spent one month organizing and holding multiple fundraisers to pay their way. They raised the money, but at the price of great stress on the students to keep up with their regular studies, their AD team practices, other extracurricular activities they were involved in and the fundraising itself, former coach Marty Kelly told the school board at its May meeting.
The district’s policy has been to fund the team advisor and the purchase of the yearly study materials, and to bus the team to local and regional competitions, but it cannot afford the cost of sending a team across the U.S. to nationals. The next three years will be especially difficult for the team because nationals will be held in Hawaii this year, Alaska the next year probably California the year following.
The district said last June it could not change the policy to pay for the team’s estimated $16,000 in costs if it reaches the nationals in Hawaii this year. Shortly after that, both of the AD team’s faculty advisors, Kelly and Christie Brenneck, resigned their positions. The district then put out multiple calls to staff to find new advisors, but nobody volunteered to take over.
During this past summer, CHS senior and team co-captain Danielle Axelson worked diligently to raise the necessary funds by meeting with private individuals asking for team funding through sponsorships. Her mother, Barb Axelson, also volunteered to be a team coach. Barb Axelson had no experience as an AD coach, however, and the team “really wanted another coach,” especially one with some AD experience, so, at the suggestion of Kelly, the team reached out to Wightman once the school year begin this fall, said Danielle Axelson.
“It’s nice to be back. I’ve never been a coach but I understand much of it. A lot of [the work] is [the team] doing it themselves — this team has very strong leadership,” Wightman said.
Even while the search for coaches was ongoing, the AD team had received their yearly competition supplies and started meeting and practicing, Danielle Axelson said. They even had a huge amount of student interest in team membership in September, with about 20 students attending the first meeting, and a final team roster of 12 students, she said.
This year’s topic is World War I, and part of the preparation is that the team members must all read the novel, “The Sun Also Rises,” by Ernest Hemingway.
“We’re very thrilled. It’s a lot more interesting than [the subject of Russia] last year,” Axelson said. “I think the competition is going to be very tough this year.”
Axelson said the team is determined, as always, to make it to nationals again this year — and to raise the necessary funding to pay for the trip. She has so far lined up five individual sponsors, and the team continues to hold their usual fundraisers. They are currently undertaking a holiday gift wrapping fundraiser, which will run throughout the month of December from 3 to 6 p.m. every Thursday and from 9 a.m. to noon every Saturday at Common Grounds. The team will wrap Christmas gifts for $2 per package ($5 minimum). They will also hold their annual Mother’s Day basket raffle in May.
The team has so far raised about $10,000, and has another $10,000 or so to go, Wightman said. Any funds raised and not used this year will be put into the AD team’s account to be used the following year.
“This is a team that really speaks to a lot of peoples’ hearts,” Axelson said. “We’re standing strong [and] very excited.”
For more information about the AD team’s fundraising efforts or to inquire about being a team sponsor, contact Danielle Axelson at email@example.com.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.