This letter to the editor was submitted by Frankling High School teacher and Academic Decathlon coach Samuel Kullens.
Academic Decathlon is the largest academic competition in the United States. Thousands of high schools across 42 states contend in what is undoubtedly one of the most intellectually grueling and time-consuming endeavors a young person can undertake.
All decathletes are tested in ten subjects: Art, Economics, Essay, Interview, Math, Music, History, Literature, Speech, and Science. Each year, the competition centers on a single curricular theme: the theme of this year’s competition was the Age of Empire, and next year’s will focus on Russia. While the decathletes are tested on the basic elements of art history, music theory, microeconomics and calculus, they also learn specialized knowledge about the region or time period of the overarching theme.
Just a few years ago, was one of the lowest-ranked Academic Decathlon teams in LAUSD. However, over the past five years, through the hard work and dedication of the students, the program at Franklin has steadily developed into one of the best and most competitive programs in the country. In 2010, for the first time in school history, Franklin qualified for the state championship.
While the majority of competitive Decathlon teams in Los Angeles hail from highly gifted magnets and charter schools located in affluent areas like Pacific Palisades, Los Feliz, and the west San Fernando Valley, what makes Franklin's situation particularly unique is that the team—like the school itself—is made up of students from working-class Latino and Asian backgrounds.
Only one member of this year's Decathlon team speaks English at home.
Yet these differences have only motivated and challenged the Franklin Decathletes to work even harder. Decathletes give up their summer, fall and winter breaks; they typically stay until 7 or 8 p.m. during the school year and even give up their weekends when preparing for competition—in addition to continuing to achieve in their five regular academic classes. What's more, these Decathletes' dedication has also resulted in developing a strong foundation for overall academic success. In past years, former Decathletes have gone on to attend all of the flagship UCs and elite private schools like Dartmouth, Stanford, and Wake Forest University; this year, team captain Kenia Alfaro will be attending Brown University, and class valedictorian Justin Sao has been accepted at both Princeton and Stanford.
, this year the funding for this flagship program is in doubt. LAUSD plans to cut the money allotted for Decathlon programs; for Franklin, this would mean a shortfall of approximately $8,000, and the program's overall operating costs are almost double that.
To ensure the continuation of the Decathlon program, the Franklin Decathlon team will be holding a silent auction and fundraiser June 8. More details regarding the event will be available in the upcoming weeks. Money raised will help pay for study supplies, uniforms, travel expenses and food for the decathletes. The team is also hoping to implement academic enrichment activities such as museum visits, orchestra concerts, and other events that supplement the rigorous decathlon curriculum.
Any donation is much appreciated, and is tax deductible. Non-monetary donations are also accepted, as we would greatly appreciate any products that may be used for raffle or auction. Donors will be provided with a receipt, as well as Franklin’s federal tax identification number, as soon as possible. Checks may be made out to Franklin Academic Decathlon Trust and can be sent to:
FHS Academic Decathlon
c/o Franklin High School
820 N. Ave 54
Los Angeles, CA, 90042
While it is our goal to someday win the state championship, and to represent both Los Angeles and the state of California in the national championship, if we do fall short, we know it is not due to a lack of preparation and hard work. We hope to make you, Franklin High School, and the entire Highland Park community proud.
With your support, we know our best is yet to come.