By Polly Keary, Editor
Monroe’s Hi-Q team students shouldn’t have any trouble convincing people that they are smart after this school year.
Not only do they tend to score high in the quiz competitions, this year they saved the whole program, solving economic problems that the college that runs the program could not.
Hi-Q has for decades been a favorite for Monroe High School academic achievers. It is a team activity, in which school teams engage in a quiz competition with questions in 13 categories, including math and Shakespeare.
Winners at the state level go on to compete against other champions from the three other participating states at the national level.
It didn’t cost Monroe High School much to participate, but it did cost Everett Community College, the organization that sponsored the Snohomish County teams, a fair amount.
So last year, EvCC announced that they would no longer be able to offer the program.
Monroe’s team decided to remain a team, but with a new mission.
“My team decided that, in lieu of practicing for this year’s team, the five of them, they would write a business plan, start a Facebook campaign and contact coaches,” said MHS English teacher Giles Stanton, who coordinates the Monroe program.
“When we knew it was canceled, we rallied all the other students in all the other schools in the district, and we contacted (Hi-Q headquarters) in Pennsylvania,” said Eric Grewal, a Monroe junior in his third year on the team. “Once we had all the support, we took action.”
Grewal, who also participates in business club DECA, wrote a business plan. In order to do that, he found out what it had cost EvCC to run the program.
The answer, $40,000 or so, surprised them.
“Everyone is like, really?” Stanton said. “It’s $40,000 for what exactly?”
It turned out that administrating the program required expensive staff hours, which accounted for the lion’s share of the budget.
Beyond that, the questions from the Hi-Q headquarters cost about $4,000 a year, and there were some costs associated with transportation and equipment.
“Luckily we got in contact with a retired Hi-Q coach and substitute teacher at the Monroe School District,” said Grewal.
The coach, David Korkowski, coached Monroe Hi-Q from 1977 until 2005. He agreed to coach again as a volunteer. He also said he could help with equipment and transportation, and with developing the quiz material.
“He’s very passionate about Hi-Q,” said Grewal. “He had all the resources that we needed.”
That leaves the Monroe team with few expenses, and what expenses there are they will address by retaining the long-standing $200-per-high-school fee.
With the program back in action, the students got participation commitments from five other high schools, so far.
And last week, they had their first tournament.
Teams from six schools came to Monroe, and Archbishop Murphy took a strong early lead, with 24 points to Monroe’s 11 and Lynnwood’s nine. The Bearcats made a second-half comeback, eventually leading Lynnwood by one point until the final math toss-up question.
The Wildcats took the last four points, and the final score was Archbishop Murphy, 40; Monroe, 37; and Lynnwood, 9.
Then the other three schools, including Meadowdale, Stanwood and Jackson, competed. It was a close competition, with the score tied at 21-21-21 at the half. Jackson took the lead in the second half, and the final score was Jackson, 45; Meadowdale, 38 and Stanwood, 29.
The next competition will take place at Archbishop Murphy Feb. 26. The three teams with the highest combined scores will go to championships at the first-place school March 4-8.
Then the regional champions will enter an online national competition with students form Alabama, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
Monroe’s team will likely do well, if history is any indicator; the team two years ago won fourth place at nationals and went to the state semi-finals last year.
The students are very intense about it, said Stanton.
“It’s as intent as wrestling,” he said. “They are in front of the student body, and it’s quiet and focused.”
The competition is uniquely valuable, he said, because it is one of the rare programs that are geared for academic achievers rather than athletes.
“These kids are going on to Harvard, MIT and Yale,” he said.
Eventually the students hope to have the membership up to 12 schools again.
And EvCC says they might be able to help in the future.
“As long as we bring our own funding, they will support the organization, and the matches, and also even pay for the questions,” said Grewal. “They love the organization but they didn’t have the resources to keep going.”