It has come to my attention that Yuba County has decided to cut the Academic Decathlon program for the 2020-2021 school year. As a former team captain and alumnus of Marysville High School I strongly urge you to reconsider this decision.
I am proud to call Yuba County my first home – we are a community of people who often turn a little into a lot, and we come together to support each other in times of need. The diversity of our community is a strength and not a weakness. That being said, Yuba County is not without its challenges: the estimated percentage of individuals living below the poverty line is 21% (Cal Budget). MJUSD had a high school dropout rate of 8.4% as recently as 2016 (Ed Source). Beyond Yuba County, we are seeing unprecedented problems in higher education; with budget cuts across the board at most U.S. universities and sky-rocketing costs of a college education it’s harder than ever to get into college and afford your degree.
Now, more than ever, we need programs that reinforce the value of knowledge, help students develop critical thinking and problem solving skills and give our kids a competitive edge in life and in university, if they choose that path. For myself, and many other students over the years, Academic Decathlon gave us invaluable tools: Confidence in our own abilities with speech writing and elocution, knowledge of topics we would have never otherwise invested in such as classical art and music, creative thinking and problem solving, and commitment and camaraderie with a team. I’ve seen C students blossom and develop a love of learning they did not know they had in Academic Decathlon. I’ve watched shy, nervous students overcome their fears and medal in the prepared speech category. Students who were self-proclaimed “jocks” joined Academic Decathlon and discovered a love of renaissance paintings. Parents may see their children invest in and succeed academically for the first time in their lives.
This program is impactful, if not downright magical; to take it away would be a shame.
I understand that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CAD programs are moving online. Your students know technology better than any of us – if they want to participate they can absolutely make an online format work. Do not underestimate your students or the commitment of your coaches. If MJUSD needs additional resources to make the program work this year, I volunteer myself as a free resource to the district to make it work. This is how much I believe in this program and its students. I would be happy to answer any questions – please let me know how I can help.
Cortney Miller (Simmons), Ph. D