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High School Students Earn Scholarships at St. John’s Academic Tournament

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Putting their command of classroom knowledge and SJU trivia to the test, students from 11 New York City high schools competed for scholarships at the second annual College Advantage Academic Bowl, held on February 11 at the Queens, NY, campus.

The Academic Bowl—styled after the popular television game show Jeopardy—took place at the University’s D’Angelo Center and attracted 39 students from the local area. The participants belong to the University’s College Advantage Program, which allows qualified high school juniors and seniors to take credit-bearing courses through St. John’s in English, mathematics, language, fine arts, science, and the humanities. 

“College Advantage courses are taught by high school teachers who have been vetted by SJU department chairs,” said Cecelia Russo, Director of the program. “It’s unique in how it allows high school students to get a head start on college credits at a reduced cost.”

The program, Ms. Russo noted, launched in 1976 at the request of two local high schools. “Since then,” she said, “College Advantage has grown to 120 partner high schools.” Participating schools stretch beyond New York City’s five boroughs to Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, in NY; and to Connecticut and New Jersey.

At this year’s tournament, participating schools fielded 13 teams made up of three students each. They competed for St. John’s scholarships in the amounts of $5,000 (first place), $2,500 (second), and $1,500 (third). Cardinal Spellman High School, St. Francis Preparatory High School, and Benjamin N. Cardozo High School won first, second, and third place, respectively.

Scholarships for incoming freshmen begin in fall 2017 and continue annually for up to four years of continuous study. The award amounts rose over last year and participation grew by nine teams. Of the 16 high school seniors who competed last year, nine are currently enrolled at St. John’s.

“We encourage all the students who earn credits through College Advantage to apply to St. John’s and enroll,” said Jorge Rodriguez, Vice Provost and Chief Enrollment Officer, “and our Second Annual Academic Bowl is yet another avenue to showcase the University.” Mr. Rodriguez added, “Knowing the students took the time to create a team, prepare, and have a strong desire to attend St. John’s demonstrates the success of the event.”

Students had varied preparation strategies, as the contestants from Xaverian High School in Brooklyn explained. “We got ready by dividing up the subject matter and each taking a different discipline to study,” said senior Michael Zafalo who plans to attend SJU. “I know St. John’s history for the trivia portion of the game, which is fun.”  His teammate, senior Marc Jean Veart, noted, “I definitely plan to attend St. John’s, win or lose.” Marc, who was drawn to the College Advantage Program because it allows him to take calculus and world religions, marveled at the beauty of the campus. “It’s very open and inviting—it’s exactly what I’m looking for.” 

“This event challenges all of us” said Regibella Duperpal, a senior from St. Saviour High School in Park Slope, Brooklyn. “It’s fun, but you have to think very fast.” Regibella said she is grateful for the chance to take advanced trigonometry and calculus in high school. “It’ll give me a real advantage when I enroll at SJU in the fall,” she said. “I’m excited to start college here.