Growing up in Winnetka in a Korean family, 17-year-old twins Eunice and Joshua Choi had heard about the Korean War from their parents and grandparents. But it wasn’t until this past year, training for their high school’s academic decathlon team, that the Grenada Hills Charter seniors came to see their family history in a new way.
The Cold War was the theme of this year’s academic competition. Studying the “larger context” of “how the United States influenced other countries through proxy wars,” explained Eunice Choi, “opened my eyes to the amount of soft power and propaganda that was so important and how it influences us today.
The team’s daily training sessions have paid off. On Saturday, Granada Hills Charter won the United States Academic Decathlon Championship. The competition was a mix of multiple-choice exams, essays, interviews and speeches and covered seven subject areas, including science, literature, art, music, social sciences, economics and mathematics.
Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Kurt Vonnegut, the space race and the nuclear arms race were among the subjects studied by the teenagers. The Choi siblings had read “Cat’s Cradle” in their spare time before, but for the contest, they revisited Vonnegut’s classic novel through the lens of the Cold War.
Joshua Choi studied jazz and added Ellington’s “Take the A Train” and Armstrong’s “Remember Who You Are” to his playlist.
The spots of the Granada Hills Charter Academic Decathlon team are very competitive. The rules require students with a wide range of averages, bringing different strengths and weaknesses to the team.
The winning student team included Dwaipayan Chanda, Eunice Choi, Joshua Choi, Rachel Heo (alternate), Chloe Hyun, Aroa Kim (alternate), Justin Kim, Hirusha Liyanage, Anthony Mercado (alternate), Jasdeep Sidhu and Zorex Villadelgado Jr The team was coached by Alina Lee, Linda Kang and Amy Contreras.
In the state competition in March, Granada Hills Charter beat longtime rival El Camino Real Charter High School in Woodland Hills. Today was the school’s eighth victory in the national competition.