Carnegie Vanguard sophomores blaze a trail to Academic WorldQuest National Competition

For Siddharth Dasari, the decision to involve his school in the Academic WorldQuest Competition was a no-brainer. A sophomore at Carnegie Vanguard High School, Dasari has an encyclopedic mind for current events and a passion for competition. He also found out about Academic WorldQuest with only a month to prepare before the competition that would qualify his school’s team for nationals.

With time running out, Dasari enlisted the smartest and most capable people he knew: his friends.

With the help of fellow sophomores Brandon Strug, Shanti Majumder, and Coulson Batchelor, who, like Dasari, have backgrounds in debate, Dasari assembled Carnegie Vanguard’s first-ever Academic WorldQuest team.

Academic WorldQuest is the flagship youth education program of the World Affairs Councils of America. The competition is designed to test teams’ knowledge of world cultures, global economics, current international politics, history and more in an effort to keep young people knowledgeable about and interested in the world around them.

The competition is comprised of questions about current events – extremely current, events that occurred between 2022 and 2023— in ten different categories. This year, the categories were Securing the Future of the World’s Wildlife, The Arctic Council: Frozen Cooperation, Atrocity Prevention and Accountability, Combating Global Food Insecurity, Economic Sanctions: A Double-Edged Sword, Great Decisions, Country in Focus: Ethiopia, The Future of Supply Chains, Battle of the Century: Autocracy vs. Democracy and Current Events. The questions are taken directly from articles provided to contestants to test their reading comprehension and their information retention skills.

After a month of vigorous preparation (the team employed a “divide and conquer” strategy so that at least one of them would be an expert at each category), Carnegie Vanguard was hopeful, but tried to be realistic. They understood that their competition, largely wealthy private schools and larger public schools with greater resources and time to prepare for the competition, would have an undeniable advantage over a team just starting out.

Despite their perceived shortcomings, the Carnegie Vanguard team beat out all the other Academic WorldQuest teams in the Greater Houston area and secured themselves a spot in the national competition in Washington DC. Dasari, Strug, Majumder and Batchelor will travel to DC this week ready to dominate the competition.

The Carnegie Vanguard team hopes that their success in the Academic WorldQuest competition will inspire other students to keep informed about current events and get involved with the competition in the future.

“I’ve developed a sense of self-fulfillment,” Dasari said. “We have definitely gained the confidence that we can continue to do these kinds of events, and I think that, fresh off of such a win, we could get more kids in our school interested in [the competition].”

Dasari and his team are planning to start a chapter of the Houston World Affairs Council within Carnegie Vanguard, which would enable them to send more teams to the competition, gain access to seminars and speakers, and increase exposure to the global knowledge and awareness that has become their proficiency.  

The Academic WorldQuest National Competition will take place in Washington DC on April 28 and 29, 2023.

For more information about the World Affairs Councils of America and Academic WorldQuest, visit their website.

5/8/2023 Update:

The Carnegie Vanguard team placed second in the Academic WorldQuest National Competition out of 38 competing teams.