Academic WorldQuest champions

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- It's the season of scholastic competitions -- local, state and national -- contests and tournaments of all kinds: spelling, geography, music, speech and more. One of those centers on an immense subject -- the world. It's Academic WorldQuest. And the Fox 4 Young Achievers of the Week are worldbeaters in it.

They're planning a trip to Washington, DC -- four seniors from Shawnee Mission North High School and their teacher-mentor. They're excited to see the monuments and museums and centers of political power. And they're excited to compete while they are there in a national contest to show how much they know and understand about the world.

"It's just something I feel everyone should know," says team member Jason Foster.

Jason Foster, Andrew Nelson, Tristan Abbott and Ali Oguz are the Kansas City regional champions of Academic WorldQuest. It challenges them in 10 different and demanding subject areas -- national security issues, world hot spots, economic competitiveness and much more.

"Today, more than any time in history, humanity is being more connected," says team member Andrew Nelson.

"The topics are all just really interesting and they are things that aren't really focused on in school, either," says Jason.

"Programs like this help you along with learning about other people, other cultures, and how we can all work together," says Andrew.

For weeks, teacher Jon Durham has been gathering his team for spirited discussions about world issues and current events to prepare them first for the regional competition and now the national tournament. But the guys say this is not at all unusual for them.

"We all like to hang out and we discuss these kinds of things even if there wasn't this Academic WorldQuest," says team member Ali Oguz.

"That's what we talk about at lunch," says team member Tristan Abbott. "It's what we talk about when we have free time in the classroom. Because these are issues that are really important."

"Somebody will randomly ask a question, we'll discuss it and get heated and get mad at each other just for the fun of it," says Ali.

These seniors really broke new ground with Academic WorldQuest this year. It's their first time ever doing it. And no team from North has won the regional competition before.

They are not novices at scholastic competition, though. They are North's Academic Decathlon team, too. So Academic WorldQuest is right in their wheelhouse.

"The more they know, the more interested they get, the more interested they get, the more they want to know and then that perpetuates itself," says team advisor Jon Durham.

The team recently got to visit the office of the International Relations Council, the Kansas City sponsor of Academic WorldQuest. And while they were there, IRC Executive Director Linda Trout presented them with their championship trophy.

Now they hope to add to that impressive hardware in Washington, DC.

"It's going to be really nice to see all those other students from around the country who are also just as interested in the subject matter," says Tristan Abbott. "And it will be nice to beat them, too." With the world watching.

Academic WorldQuest is next week at Georgetown University. Meantime, the North team encourages other high schools to get into it next year. It's open to all comers. There's also a tournament like it for adult teams, too. That was held last week and a team from Kansas City, Missouri City Hall won it.

To connect with the International Relations Council for information on both competitions, go to

 Fox 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Monday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m., every Wednesday on Fox 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 5 p.m.

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