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Granada Hills Charter Wins 8th Academic Decathlon Championship

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Granada Hills Charter Decathlon
Photo Courtesy of Granada Hills Charter

Granada Hills Charter High School captured its eighth United States Academic Decathlon championship on Saturday.

The team scored 52,656.7 points out of a possible 60,0000 to claim the title, according to the school.

“Like last year, this competition was a big shift for everyone involved,” said team coach Alina Lee. “It was important to focus on maintaining our momentum without our normal face-to-face interactions. Our program is built on teamwork and accountability so keeping the sense of connection among our students was a top priority. I am really impressed how well everyone responded, and I’m very excited for our team.”

This year’s winning team of students is Dwaipayan Chanda, Eunice Choi, Joshua Choi, Rachel Heo (alternate), Chloe Hyun, Aroa Kim (alternate), Justin Kim, Hirusha Liyanage, Anthony Mercado (alternate), Jasdeep Sidhu, and Zorex Villadelgado, Jr. The coaches are Alina Lee, Linda Kang and Amy Contreras.

The theme of this year’s Academic Decathlon season was “The Cold War,” requiring students to study subjects within that context. Students compete in seven subject areas including science, literature, art, music, social science, economics and mathematics. 

Topics included the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union, music from the era and a focus on Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. The competition includes multiple-choice exams in each subject, as well as essays, interviews and speeches.

As part of the competition, each school enters a field of students from the following GPA categories, – “A” students (honors), – “B” students (scholastic), and – “C or below” (varsity). GHC decathletes placed within the top three in the highest individual scores in all categories: Jasdeep Sidhu (1st overall honors) and Dwaipayan Chanda (3rd overall honors); Zorex Villadelgado, Jr. (1st overall scholastic) and Hirusha Liyanage (2nd overall scholastic); and Joshua Choi (1st overall varsity) and Justin Kim (2nd overall varsity).

“I know everyone on the team worked very hard under extremely trying conditions to prepare for the competitions, so we all are excited for their success,” said Brian Bauer, executive director of Granada Hills Charter. “In a normal year, the unexpected challenges of Academic Decathlon go beyond learning about the topics and honing skills for the 10 different events. There are challenges of making time for all the preparations, of staying focused and determined and facing odds that can feel daunting. This year’s team again demonstrated the perseverance needed to compete at such a high level, and they deserve this victory.”

Next year’s competition will focus on a topic very familiar to Californians: water. The science subject will focus on marine biology and the art area will look into watercolor painting and water as a subject of art.

“I’m always amazed by how much the students learn and how dedicated our coaches are,” Bauer said. “I’m sure all the students will take what they’ve learned with them as they go on to college or enter the workforce – or come back to finish their high school experience with us next year.”

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Education

CSUN To Provide iPad Air To All First-Time Freshmen, Transfers

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CSUN Cal State Northridge

California State University, Northridge (CSUN) is one of eight CSU campuses that are part of the first phase of a new initiative, which provides a new iPad Air and other Apple products to first-time students.

The program called, California State University Connectivity Contribution to Equity and Student Success (CSUCCESS) is aimed at enhancing student achievement and create more equitable opportunities for students across the CSU system.

CSUN will be offering an iPad Air, Apple Pencil and Apple Smart Keyboard Folio to all first-time freshmen and new transfer students who register to participate in the initiative. The students will be able to keep the equipment, for free, through the completion of their undergraduate degree at the university.

“As a university committed to access, inclusion and technological innovation, CSUN is excited to join in the CSUCCESS Initiative and offer this powerful resource to our new students,” CSUN President Erika D. Beck said in a statement.. “We’re working tirelessly to remove barriers that may dim our students’ bright futures, and CSUCCESS is another impactful investment in student success.”

In addition to CSUN, the other CSU campuses participating in the launch of CSUCCESS are Bakersfield, Channel Islands, Fresno, Humboldt, Los Angeles, Maritime Academy and San Marcos. CSU officials hope to expand the initiative to all students in the California State University system in the future.

CSU officials noted that throughout the course of the pandemic, access to computing equipment and connectivity was identified as an obstacle for some CSU students. Over the course of the past year, the CSU invested more than $18 million to purchase more than 21,000 laptops and tablets and 10,000 mobile Wi-Fi hotspots for students, in addition to loaning out millions of dollars of existing equipment.

There are no income-based eligibility requirements. Devices are expected to be made available in August. Upon graduation from CSUN, students will be asked to return the equipment. The devices are provided on a loaned basis so as not to impact students’ financial aid.

CSUN students can find out more about the initiative and register to participate here

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Hollywood Celebrities Partner With LAUSD To Create Film, Television Academy

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Photo by Michael Vlasaty

A dozen Hollywood actors and producers have teamed up with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to create a film and television academy.

The coalition of leaders is spearheaded by George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Don Cheadle, Kerry Washington, Mindy Kaling, Nicole Avant, Eva Longoria, Working Title Films founders Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner and Creative Artists Agency (CAA) Co-Chairman Bryan Lourd, are partnering with the LAUSD to found the Roybal School of Film and Television Production, a specialized academy housed within the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center.

Set to launch in Fall 2022 as a magnet school, the Roybal School of Film and Television Production will provide Los Angeles Unified teachers with access to renowned storytellers, along with industry professionals and experts, and support students with a robust academic education and practical training, establishing a clear pathway to good-paying jobs, according to the district.

The inaugural program, to be overseen by Principal Blanca Cruz, will feature a specifically designed curriculum developed to meet the standards prescribed by the state of California and the University of California system. 

“We are really excited about this remarkable opportunity for collaboration and learning,” Roybal  Principal Blanca Cruz said in a statement. “Not only will it provide our students much-needed resources to support their hands-on learning experiences that are relevant in the entertainment industry, but it will also offer them the guidance and expertise needed to help them realize their inherent potential.”

In addition, students will receive real-world experience through a dedicated internship initiative. The Roybal School of Film and Television Production will start with ninth- and 10th-grade students and include Grades 11 and 12 over the next two years, with potential opportunity to expand the pilot program to more schools throughout the Los Angeles area.

“Our aim is to better reflect the diversity of our country. That means starting early. It means creating high school programs that teach young people about cameras, and editing and visual effects and sound and all the career opportunities that this industry has to offer. It means internships that lead to well-paying careers. It means understanding that we’re all in this together,” Clooney said in a statement. 

The founding members will serve on the Roybal School of Film and Television Production Advisory Board, lending their expertise and support to build a more inclusive pipeline of career-ready talent for the film and television industry.

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CSUN Receives Largest Donation In University History From MacKenzie Scott

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CSUN Cal State Northridge

California State University, Northridge (CSUN) announced Tuesday that philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott and her husband Dan Jewett donated $40 million, the largest gift from a single donor in the institution’s history.

Scott, the former partner of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has donated a total of $2.74 billion to organizations that focus on the arts and combating racial discrimination.

“Higher education is a proven pathway to opportunity, so we looked for 2- and 4-year institutions successfully educating students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved,” Scott wrote in a post announcing the billions in donations.

The gift to CSUN, which is designated to support presidential priorities, comes at an especially advantageous time for the university.

Erika D. Beck, who assumed the presidency of CSUN in January of this year, recently issued a report on what she heard during an intensive listening tour during her first 100 days. The report is the first step to a university-wide process starting this fall to create a roadmap for the future.

“This transformative gift provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to advance our future as leaders in equity-centered student success to provide a brighter and more equitable future for our students, their families and the communities we are so proud to serve,” said Beck.

Among the priorities identified in the Listening Tour Report, are the elimination of equity gaps, accelerating the work in diversifying the faculty, academic excellence, holistic student support and facilitating CSUN students’ educational goals and intellectual promise.

“While one-time dollars cannot be used to support long-term expenses in perpetuity, with a mix of focused spending and investment, we can, and will, use these dollars to transform our campus for generations to come,” Beck added.

Scott and Jewett’s gifts to higher education have focused on institutions that have higher proportions of students from historically underserved communities and excel at supporting their success. 

With multiple programs ranked nationally for their quality and excellence, CSUN was recently ranked 4th in the nation on CollegeNet’s Social Mobility Index, which measures a college’s success at moving students up the social and economic ladder.

Other Southern California colleges and organizations also received donations from the couple, including Pasadena City College and the  L.A. Arts Endowment Fund.

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