Penn Hills team competes in current-events competition

Patrick Varine
| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Preparation for a current-events quiz competition offers an opportunity for a student to study whenever he or she has access to news.

In the era of smartphones, wi-fi and 24-hour cable, that's pretty much anywhere.

And it's a good thing: when Penn Hills High School formed a team to compete in the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh's WorldQuest competition, all their practice and study sessions were cancelled due to the weather.

The team placed 34th out of 50 schools at the competition, which was held in January at the Soldiers & Sailors Military Museum and Memorial in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood.

“I was not disappointed with our team or the event,” said Josh Willy, gifted coordinator for the Penn Hills School District.

“Our team of Zeleena Kearney, AnnaMarie Kun, Angelica Walker and Ashley Yurkovich did their best and are all poised to go to esteemed colleges. I know our team was energized by the experience.”

Senior Angelica Walker, 17, spoke with the Progress about the competition:

Q: How did you get involved with WorldQuest?

A: I was invited to the Penn Hills WorldQuest team after representing Penn Hills on KDKA's “Hometown High-Q.”

Q: Are you a regular consumer of international news?

A: Yes. I subscribe to several international publications such as RT (Russia Today), Al-Jazeera, and of course, BBC.

Q: What are some of the courses you've taken at Penn Hills related to the competition?

A: Taking journalism in ninth grade taught me the importance of keeping up on current events, so I've been reading daily papers ever since and that really helped in the competition. My (advanced-placement) European History class helped me with a lot of the geography and cultural questions. Penn Hills also offers a Pitt-sponsored college statistics class, and a few random facts I've learned in that class came into play as well.

Q: What is the format of the competition?

A: The competition was divided into nine rounds, each with their own topics, such as world cultures, global economy, current events, and global health. As the moderators read the questions, teams talk them out, write down their answers, and turn in answer sheets at the end of the rounds. The format really promoted teamwork, with every team member contributing their own knowledge.

Q: What were some of the more-difficult questions?

A: There were lots of questions about locations, leaders, and flags of little-known countries like Andorra and Botswana.

Q: What was the biggest challenge for the Penn Hills team?

A: Although we planned our first meeting three months before the competition, they were cancelled due to weather again and again. We ended up going into the competition without a single team practice.

Q: What did you enjoy most about the day's events?

A: I just loved being in such a competitive, enthusiastic environment. High school students don't get many opportunities to show off their knowledge, and I think it's great that organizations like the World Affairs Council are making it possible.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or

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