Academic Bowl helps young men in their efforts of “Aiming for the Stars”

Middle school (6th through 8th grades) division winners: Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy at B.F. Darell School (7th-grade team) – (left to right) Kerry Shelton, teacher; Earl Potts Jr., Lancaster; Fernando Ojeda, Dallas; and Joshua Lathan, Dallas.

By Ruth Ferguson, NDG Editor

David Robinson is the founder and event coordinator for the Annual African American Male Academic Bowl. The event, in its fourth year, was held on Saturday, Jan. 26 at the University of North Texas at Dallas campus and featured 111 young men in the 4th- 8th grade competing on a wide range of academic subjects and current events.

The academic tournament invites teams of three youth and one coach to compete in a single elimination tournament. There are two divisions: 4th – 5th grade and 6th- 7th grade. In each round, the two competing teams are asked quiz questions, which they must provide the correct answer within a specific timeframe. The team correctly answering the most questions is declared the winner.

Speaking by phone on Wednesday to NDG, Robinson shared the steady growth of the event over the years with 69 boys in 2009, 75 the following year and last year 87 boys participated. This year the competitors included students from Austin, Fort Worth, Frisco and other DFW school districts.

Robinson kicked off the project because, “There were not really any events such as this that targeting 4th 8th graders.” He points to the challenges African American males are facing in academics, “Our boys are not even getting through middle school.” Robinson hopes that the competition will encourage the students throughout their academic career from middle school through college.

Elementary school (4th and 5th grades) division winners: (left to right) St. Philips School and Community Center/Team E (all from Dallas) – Jaali Hawkins, 4th grade; Timothy Peterson II, 4th grade; Malcolm Herod, 5th grade; and Kevin Crawford, team coach.

He credits the enthusiasm of the participants and the community partners for the growth of the program. The cooperation from outside partners such as Texas Sen. Royce West, Irving ISD, Fort Worth ISD, and the Dallas Community College District have helped to spread the word. McDonalds was also a major supporter for the program providing meals and other assistance.

According to Robinson, the majority of the boys participating this year are return competitors, having participated in at least one previous academy bowl. Also more than half of the 4th graders, who participated in the inaugural event in January 2010, returned this year.

All participants receive recognition, t-shirts and gift items provided by the community partners. Members of the 2nd place team received a Kindle Fire and the team winning 1st place received a Samsung Galaxy Tablet.

The coach of each team who progressed to the championship round received two tickets for the Feb. 9 Dallas Mavericks vs. Golden State Warriors game, donated by the NBA team.

Registration for next year opens in October for teams and volunteers. For more information in the meantime, visit http://www.aamab.org and follow them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/vscholars.

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