The smart kids were out to get paid Friday at East Mississippi Community College”s fourth annual Scholar”s Olympiad.
EMCC”s Golden Triangle campus hosted 105 of the area”s brightest high school juniors for a round of testing in 15 academic and technical subjects. At stake were scholarships for the top three performers in each subject and bragging rights for the top school.
New Hope High School took home a nifty trophy for the highest cumulative score. West Point was second, followed by Caledonia.
Counselors from eight participating high schools recruited the top students in each subject to compete at the Olympiad. The other five participating schools included Central Academy, Columbus High, Heritage Academy, Immanuel Christian and Starkville High.
Michael Black, recruiting coordinator for the Golden Triangle campus, said EMCC developed the Olympiad as an academic competition to foster achievement among local schools as well as to serve as a recruiting tool for EMCC.
Elizabeth Stringer, an English instructor at EMCC and one of the Olympiad”s organizers, says the division chairs from each department designed the hour-long tests students were administered.
“They”re geared toward what we think higher-level high school students should know,” she said.
Having the students on campus also gives EMCC teachers and administrators an opportunity to campaign on behalf of their school.
“A lot of these students have probably been offered scholarships from other schools,” said Stringer. “We explain how core classes here are taught by people with master”s degrees as opposed to graduate students at bigger schools. So you get smaller classes and higher quality instruction for your first two years.”
Black estimates 25 percent of Olympiad winners attend EMCC.
James Harrell, the first-place winner in Drafting and Design, had already made up his mind to attend Mississippi State University to major in engineering after he finishes at West Point. So it probably didn”t cost EMCC that Harrell wasn”t impressed with the test.
“Overall, it was very easy. I was hoping for something more challenging,” he said.
Aaron Montano, first-place winner in physical science from Caledonia, said the hardest portion of his test consisted of “stuff I learned last year.” He”s not sure if he”ll take EMCC”s scholarship or head to Ole Miss to major in biochemistry or biology.
Although some students make short work of the tests, Black says they”re still an accurate indicator of aptitude.
“For everyone who says a test was easy, you”re going to get one who says it was hard,” he says.
New Hope”s Jennifer Smith struggled working on brakes on an Oldsmobile, which she hadn”t practiced, yet still managed to take the top spot in automotive. She plans to attend EMCC.
Likewise, Cody Wilson of Caledonia was stumped for a time by tessellations — artistic mosaic patterns — but came through in the clutch to win first place in art.
“It was difficult, but after a good 30 minutes of seeing what I had to do it just came together and … first place,” he said.
Wilson also plans to attend EMCC.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.
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