The journey began at the Kentucky Jr. Beta State Convention at the Galt House in Louisville back in February, in a room full of middle school students representing dozens of schools across the commonwealth. The Russellville Middle School Jr. Beta Club Quiz Bowl team, comprised of Benjamin Slack (captain), Matthew Wilkerson, Chris Williams, and John Carter Myers, knew that the odds were against them – only the top four teams would advance from the written test phase to the oral rounds. As it turned out, RMS not only made it to the oral rounds, they went on to be the state runners-up, thereby qualifying to attend the national convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, in June.
At nationals, the boys once again had to excel on the written exam in order to participate in the oral rounds. Fifty-four teams from eighteen states qualified to attend the national convention; only the top eight would advance to orals. Again, the odds were slim, but RMS made it to the finals again. After defeating strong teams from Arkansas in the quarter-finals (Whitehall Middle School) and semi-finals (Fountain Lake Middle School), RMS fell to the defending national champions from Sterling School in South Carolina (a magnet school for the highly gifted) in the finals, thereby securing a spot as national runners-up.
The National Beta Club (made up Junior Division I (grades 4 and 5), Junior Division II (grades 6-8), and Senior Division (grades 9-12)) is the largest independent, non-profit, educational youth organization in America. It was found in 1934 in Spartanburg, South Carolina, by Dr. John W. Harris, a professor at Wofford College. There are currently some 8750 Beta Clubs in the United States, with a total National Beta Club active membership of about 450,000. The goal of the organization is to encourage and reward exemplary student effort and achievement, as well as cultivate the ideals of service and leadership in the citizens of tomorrow.
Quiz Bowl competition is designed to increase Beta members’ general knowledge of core standards, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving skills. The members of RMS’s Quiz Bowl team are also active in the Kentucky Association for Academic Competition’s Governor’s Cup academic team contests.
While in New Orleans, two members of the RMS team also competed in “Site-Up,” an exhibition event designed to showcase Beta member’s cooperative teamwork, creativity, and knowledge in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). During “Site-Up,” team members Matthew Wilkerson and Benjamin Slack developed and produced a website using photo editing and HTML software.
The Russellville Middle School Jr. Beta Club is sponsored by Andrew McLean, Lauren Fynboe, and Vicky Mathis. In addition to the team members, Donna Wilkerson (team coach), Bethany Hargett-Slack, John Myers, and Ellie Myers attended the national convention.