May 13, 2005

Preparation Pays Off—Southwest High Wins County Academic League Title

In the fast-paced, quiz show format of Academic League competition, no one is better than Southwest High. The school recently won its first county Academic League title. It is believed to be only the second time a South County high school has won the event.

Southwest High is making a habit of beating schools from more affluent communities in competitions that test students’ breadth of knowledge. Southwest High has won the more widely known county Academic Decathlon three consecutive years. Until now, the Academic League had proved an elusive quest. Its format consists of a 35-minute face-off between two teams of five students each who buzz in to answer rapid-fire questions.

Southwest Academic League and Decathlon coach Ken Boulton said his students simply outworked the competition. Team members attended both a sixth and a seventh class period—extending their school day—to prepare for the events.


Number One: Members of Southwest High’s Academic League and Academic Decathlon teams pose for a celebratory picture at a recent Board of Trustees meeting.

“The kids are willing to do it because they have bought into the success of the program,” Boulton said. “They know they are representing the school and community very well.”

The team’s preparation paid off in dominating performances against competitors from across the county.

“I knew we had a chance to come out on top because we were already 3-0 against La Jolla, but the previous three meetings did not really mean much because the ‘final’ match would decide it all,” said Americo Caves, one of South-west’s two senior team captains. “The most difficult part of the competition was getting over the nerves at the outset of the match. Once our team got into a rhythm, we just kept playing our game and we ended up on top.”

Southwest High serves the community of Nestor, which is located in the southern-most portion of the San Diego city limits. Nearly two-thirds of Southwest students qualify for free or reduced-price meals and 40% are English learners. The federal government has labeled the school as under-performing.

Boulton said his students outworked their opponents. His message was simple: “Success is not something that is given to you. You have to earn it.”

Americo will be attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Brian Custodio will be attending the University of California at Berkeley.

In addition to team captains Caves and Custodio, the members of Southwest’s team are: John Sebastian, senior; Doncarlo Augustino, senior; Jasmin Borja, senior; Jeffrey Buenaflor, junior; Orlando Escobales, senior; Martin Fuentes, senior; and Alan Vazquez, junior.

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