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Academic Decathlon team find advisors, continue fundraising

— 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.

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