State champion Academic Decathlon team prepares for next year

Academic Decathlon is a multi-category competition that revolves around a singular subject. This year’s team won the state championship.


***Virtual Victory…****Showing off their new medals, the Academic Decathlon team competed in the state championship this year. The Academic Decathlon team celebrated multiple victories this season.* *Photo by Phil Cerami*

As a result of hard work and dedication this year and the introduction of a companion course, the Academic Decathlon team has gone to the state championship and has a national award winning team member.
Academic Decathlon is a 10 category academic competition that focuses on one main subject every year. The competition is conducted through multiple choice tests on 7/10 of these categories.
The three remaining categories are a speech, an essay, and an interview. These are what team member Joey DePolo calls “interpersonal” categories.
To accompany the Academic Decathlon team, the high school offers a companion course called Interdisciplinary Honors Seminar. This helps students get acclimated to the rigor of Academic Decathlon.
Academic Decathlon coach Phil Cerami believes that the introduction of the companion course has overall helped the performance of Souderton’s team.
“We were looking for an interdisciplinary course, and I sheepishly raised my hand. I told [those at the faculty meeting] I basically had an interdisciplinary curriculum at the ready, and just needed the go ahead,” Cerami said.
An interdisciplinary course is one in which multiple subjects are offered in one.
“We never realize how close things like English and history are to things like art and science,” Cerami said.
Once approved by the board, the course was written and officially offered to students.
Cerami believes that it’s helped “level the playing field” when it comes to competition.
“A lot of schools in the state have an ‘acadec’ themed course, so having this has helped us get into that upper level. I’d say we’re definitely in the top five in the state,” Cerami said.
The preparations for the competition involve a lot of outside of school work, according to DePolo.
“We have packets that go along with the different subjects, and it’s our job to read and study the material on our own. We also do scrimmages and have study sessions on social nights,” DePolo said.
This year, Platow got to the national level with his prepared speech.
My prepared speech focused on wealth inequality in America and how the implementation of some form of wealth redistribution could improve the lives of millions of people,” Platow said. “I originally wrote on this topic for my final essay in AP Comp, then just reused much of the same research I had already done for the Rotary speech contest, then later for this, as we had not done speech or interview in competition before Nationals.”
The competition includes a prepared speech as well as an impromptu speech, and they’re both graded by a panel of judges.
While being a part of “acadec,” DePolo said he’s learned a lot.
“It was a little out of my comfort zone, but I got closer to people I don’t see on a daily basis,” DePolo said. “I also learned how to study a lot better. I’ve never had to study so hard for something, but being with the team, I’ve felt more motivated to study and learn in general.”
Though “Acadec” seems more work than play, DePolo says that both are heavily influential on the team’s ability to perform.
“We have social nights and study groups to ensure that we’re all comfortable with each other,” DePolo said. “Mr. Cerami thinks it’s important for us to team build while we learn to help make sure we do well.”
Team member Ty Platow agrees with DePolo’s statement.
“The biggest benefit of Academic Decathlon to me is the people. Our team this year was a very tight knit group and we all got along with each other well, which helps us at competitions because it is still a team sport at the end of the day,” Platow said.
Cerami said that his coaching philosophy comes mostly from athletics.
“I see a lot of connections between coaching athletics and Academic Decathlon. You have a coach, a captain and a team. The coach and captain have to be on the same page, and the captain and the team have to be on the same page,” Cerami said.