Letter to the Editor: Support Franklin's Academic Decathlon Team

The Academic Decathlon team at Franklin High School is thriving, but funding cuts have put the program's future in jeopardy.

This letter to the editor was submitted by Frankling High School teacher and Academic Decathlon coach Samuel Kullens.

Academic Decathlon is the largest academic competition in the United States. Thousands of high schools across 42 states contend in what is undoubtedly one of the most intellectually grueling and time-consuming endeavors a young person can undertake.

All decathletes are tested in ten subjects: Art, Economics, Essay, Interview, Math, Music, History, Literature, Speech, and Science.  Each year, the competition centers on a single curricular theme: the theme of this year’s competition was the Age of Empire, and next year’s will focus on Russia. While the decathletes are tested on the basic elements of art history, music theory, microeconomics and calculus, they also learn specialized knowledge about the region or time period of the overarching theme.

Just a few years ago, was one of the lowest-ranked Academic Decathlon teams in LAUSD. However, over the past five years, through the hard work and dedication of the students, the program at Franklin has steadily developed into one of the best and most competitive programs in the country.  In 2010, for the first time in school history, Franklin qualified for the state championship.  

While the majority of competitive Decathlon teams in Los Angeles hail from highly gifted magnets and charter schools located in affluent areas like Pacific Palisades, Los Feliz, and the west San Fernando Valley, what makes Franklin's situation particularly unique is that the team—like the school itself—is made up of students from working-class Latino and Asian backgrounds.

Only one member of this year's Decathlon team speaks English at home.

Yet these differences have only motivated and challenged the Franklin Decathletes to work even harder. Decathletes give up their summer, fall and winter breaks; they typically stay until 7 or 8 p.m. during the school year and even give up their weekends when preparing for competition—in addition to continuing to achieve in their five regular academic classes. What's more, these Decathletes' dedication has also resulted in developing a strong foundation for overall academic success. In past years, former Decathletes have gone on to attend all of the flagship UCs and elite private schools like Dartmouth, Stanford, and Wake Forest University; this year, team captain Kenia Alfaro will be attending Brown University, and class valedictorian Justin Sao has been accepted at both Princeton and Stanford.

, this year the funding for this flagship program is in doubt. LAUSD plans to cut the money allotted for Decathlon programs; for Franklin, this would mean a shortfall of approximately $8,000, and the program's overall operating costs are almost double that.

To ensure the continuation of the Decathlon program, the Franklin Decathlon team will be holding a silent auction and fundraiser June 8.  More details regarding the event will be available in the upcoming weeks.  Money raised will help pay for study supplies, uniforms, travel expenses and food for the decathletes.  The team is also hoping to implement academic enrichment activities such as museum visits, orchestra concerts, and other events that supplement the rigorous decathlon curriculum.

Any donation is much appreciated, and is tax deductible.  Non-monetary donations are also accepted, as we would greatly appreciate any products that may be used for raffle or auction. Donors will be provided with a receipt, as well as Franklin’s federal tax identification number, as soon as possible. Checks may be made out to Franklin Academic Decathlon Trust and can be sent to:

FHS Academic Decathlon
c/o Franklin High School
820 N. Ave 54
Los Angeles, CA, 90042

While it is our goal to someday win the state championship, and to represent both Los Angeles and the state of California in the national championship, if we do fall short, we know it is not due to a lack of preparation and hard work.  We hope to make you, Franklin High School, and the entire Highland Park community proud.

With your support, we know our best is yet to come.

RGeorge April 30, 2012 at 03:17 PM
I believe Academic Decathalon is open to all students and that there is even a requirement to have students with C averages on the team, so this isn't just about supporting the best and brightest at Franklin, it's about supporting a group of kids that work really hard and deserve a chance to compete with other schools with more resources. Looking forward to the auction! Let's show some encouragement instead of negativity!
HPLA April 30, 2012 at 06:48 PM
PLEASE CREATE A FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THIS FUNDRAISER!! Love The Patch, but you can get the word out faster and to a lot more people on fb. I'm going to re-post on my FHS class page.
natasha s. April 30, 2012 at 11:36 PM
While I don't have any children of my own, I am an HLP homeowner and am thrilled at the opportunity to be able to show my support to something so wonderful happening in my own backyard, especially since my property taxes won't be reaching this deserving, hardworking group of students and their coach. While poking around the internet I found this LA Times article from 2010 on your team and what you do. I enjoyed reading it and hope others have a chance to read it too http://articles.latimes.com/2010/mar/14/local/la-me-franklin14-2010mar14. I'm a believer and a supporter of the Franklin Academic Decathalon Team...hope you make it all the way to #1 this year. Please keep us updated on Patch and thanks for all that you do to provide knowledge and opportunities for the children in our neighborhood!!!
La Casa de Bernarda Alba April 30, 2012 at 11:54 PM
I do not have children in LAUSD schools; but I want to support FHS students, staff, and our community! I will be sending my donation to the FHS Academic Decathalon Team, too!
Sam K. May 01, 2012 at 04:08 AM
Thank you for your support! We appreciate it beyond words, and hope to see you at the fundraiser. The event will be held on June 8, from 4pm-10pm at the Ebell Club (131 S. Ave 57/LA, CA 90042). Katherine, great suggestion, many thanks. Here is the URL: https://www.facebook.com/events/354838924565566/


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