GRANADA HILLS, Calif.,—Granada Hills Charter High School reclaimed the United States Academic Decathlon title, capturing the school’s seventh national championship. The school secured the national title in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, and again on April 27, 2019 with a total of 53,108.5 points out of a possible 60,000. A welcome celebration was held with bagpipers, cheerleaders and special guests when the winning team returned to school on Monday morning.
The Academic Decathlon is a rigorous, 10-event competition that revolves around a central topic in seven subject areas: science, literature, art, music, social science, economics and mathematics. This year’s topic was “The 1960s: A Transformational Decade.” The decathletes compete in multiple-choice exams on each topic as well as through essays and speeches. GHC won both a Los Angeles-area competition for charter schools and the California state championship to qualify for the national competition, which was held in Bloomington, Minnesota.
Academic Decathlon teams consist of nine students, divided in three categories based on GPA: Honors (3.74 – 4.0 and above), Scholastic (3.0 – 3.74) and Varsity (2.99 and less). GHC’s Academic Decathlon team includes Honors decathletes Nicole DerSahakian, Connie Chen, and Dilawar Khan; Scholastic decathletes Lelija Kazlauskas, Kenny Ly, and Jared Matsubayashi; and Varsity decathletes Benjamin LaFreniere, Ezhan Mirza, and Tamara Cruz. The coaches are Alina Lee, Linda Kang, and Amy Contreras.
As a senior at GHC, this is Nicole DerSahakian’s second year as a decathlete. She is currently the only Armenian to have ever competed on GHC’s Academic Decathlon team.
When asked how it felt to win the national championship, DerSahakian replied, “It feels absolutely amazing to finally reach my goal. This has been my dream for two years and I’m so grateful for being given this opportunity.” She received numerous medals at the national competition, including gold medals in the categories of literature and art, in which she earned a perfect score; a silver medal in the category of mathematics; and a bronze medal in the category of essay. Nicole will be graduating as a valedictorian this May and will be attending the University of California, Berkeley in the fall.
So, what is their secret? According to DerSahakian, the team’s success stems from their true sense of family, immense cooperation, and ability to work indefatigably towards a common goal. “My teammates and I have formed very close bonds over the course of the past 11 months. Our camaraderie has truly allowed us to motivate one another, hold each other accountable, and help each other succeed.”
“Each year is a tough challenge that forces the decathletes not only to bear down and study hard but also to overcome disappointments and moments when they really are pushed to new limits,” said Alina Lee, head coach. In addition to the efforts of the decathletes, the wonderful coaches and staff supporting them played an instrumental role in their success.
“On behalf of the Granada Hills Charter community, I want to congratulate our 2019 National Champions,” added Brian Bauer, Executive Director of GHC. “Their dedication, determination and discipline are wonderful reflections of the education and environment for learning we strive each day to create at Granada Hills Charter. We all are very proud of them and hope the memories they have made are everlasting and inspire them, whether they are returning GHC students or move on to the next exciting stage of their lives.”