Outstanding Senior: Kern Chepeha
Congratulations to Kern Chepeha of Toronto ON, Canada, for winning an Outstanding Senior Award at the 2018 AGLOA National Tournament. Here are excerpts from his nomination by Eric Nelson and Nick Wang.
In my five years participating in the AGLOA league, this is the first time I am actually writing a letter to recommend someone for the Outstanding Senior Award. Ironically, this year I cannot narrow my choice to just one nominee.
We have been very fortunate this year in Ann Arbor to have a dedicated group of 12th grade Academic Games players who have gone out of their way to serve our AG community in many ways. Eight of our graduating seniors have helped out at one point or another, this year and prior years, with other AG teams, both within and without of Ann Arbor.
One of our most dedicated 12th graders is Kern Chepeha. Kern started Academic Games as a fifth grader at Angell Elementary School, playing Basic Equations, Basic On-Sets, and Presidents. As a fifth grader, Kern was enthusiastic, energetic, and independent. His coach often struggled with Kern’s penchant for questioning authority and his mischievous sense of humor. Although he was very dedicated, rarely missing practice, and very quick to complete all Equations worksheets assigned and eager for more, it was unclear for a while if he was going to be allowed to attend the Michigan State Tournament. Eventually, his coach decided to give Kern the opportunity to attend, and he scored well in both Equations and On-Sets.
In 6th grade, Kern and a group of his friends from the Angell team moved up to the middle school team at Tappan Middle School. Each year he was at Tappan, Kern and his team got more successful. They qualified for Nationals all three years. In 7th grade, Kern placed in the top ten in Sweepstakes, and the team won the national title in Equations. His 8th-grade year, his team won Equations, On-Sets, LinguiSHTIK, and Sweepstakes. The group of crazy boys had brought Tappan their first Sweeps title in over ten years and had won more titles in one year than any other team in the school’s history.
On the last night of Nationals his 8th-grade year, Kern told his teammates and his coaches that he was moving to Toronto, where his parents were getting jobs, and he would be attending a prestigious high school, Royal St. George’s College. His coaches and teammates naturally assumed this was the end of his AG career. But Kern promised that he would continue playing. The next fall, he contacted the Ann Arbor high school coach and asked for a schedule of the local Saturday tournaments. We assured him that we would waive our normal requirements for high schoolers to attend a certain number of the Saturday tournaments, but he insisted that he would attend all of them. Sure enough, that year, he attended five local tournaments. Toronto to Detroit is about a 250-mile drive each way. In four years of high school, Kern attended 20 tournaments, logging somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 miles of travel. Coaches asked his parents about driving him so far so many times, and they responded that the tournaments were his opportunity to visit with his old friends, and they were happy to do it.
Of course, Kern has also attended every state and national tournament in his high school years, often traveling separately, or with his parents to meet us at the national site. His team has continued to succeed, winning multiple national and state championships and placing in countless others.
At the first local tournament of his 12th-grade year, Kern approached the coaches again and told us he had begun teaching some middle school students and wanted to know if he would be allowed to bring them to the state tournament. We were skeptical at first but realized that we had been wrong to question his dedication in the past. Following that we had multiple conversations with him about teaching strategies, what games to concentrate on, and how to sell the Academic Games program to adults and administrators in Toronto. Although he was not able to bring the team to states, he still felt that the experience was a positive one, both for him and his students. He hopes to continue the program if he attends college in the Toronto area.
Kern is still energetic, still enthusiastic about Academic Games, still independent-minded, still with the same sense of humor. The same traits that made him such a handful as a 5th grader have made him an accomplished young man, whose dedication to and love of Academic Games has made an indelible mark on his teammates and students from Ann Arbor to Toronto.
Outstanding Senior: Nameera Islam
Congratulations to Nameera Islam of Haynes Academy in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, an Outstanding Senior Award winner at the 2018 AGLOA National Tournament. Here are excerpts from her nomination.
Nameera played Academic Games for eight years, attending Nationals every year. Her teams ranked first in Jefferson Parish every year she competed. Her team won Sweepstakes championships in her sophomore and senior years. She is also a two-time National On-Sets champion.
Ellie Gamble wrote this about Nameera: “Without Nameera, there would be no high school program at Haynes. She arranges practices, organizes paperwork, works as our head counselor in summer camp, and teaches elementary school students in her spare time.”
Octavio Hernandez, her math teacher for both Precalculus and Calculus AP, added these comments to her nomination: “She is a team player, supportive of her peers, and intrinsically motivated to succeed. Her self-assurance and collegiality and effective time management are traits that she has gained through her participation in Academic Games.
“During the fall semester, Nameera asked me if she could use my classroom once a week during lunch for Academic Games practices. I had an opportunity to see her in action, working with high school students, organizing practices, patient, persuasive, and energetic. One could say that Academic Games defines Nameera.
“She belongs to a select group of Haynes Academic Games members who have excelled academically while actively involved in extracurricular activities, ready to pass the torch to underclassmen and leading by example.”