Tenacity Challenge Teams Address Systemic Racism in Virtual Competition

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Jeff 'JHO' Hoyland (c) 2017 all rights reserved

The Quiz Bowl during the 2017 Tenacity Challenge – Click to view larger image

“Tenacity” is defined as “the quality of holding fast, keeping a firm hold.”

How appropriate that the second straight year of pandemic-induced virtual competition did not deter the 10th annual Tenacity Challenge, which takes place Saturday afternoon.

The Tenacity Challenge is described as “an annual academic scholarship competition for teams of Latino and African-American students from urban and suburban high schools across Massachusetts.”

Formally, the event is known as the Jon Sills L&A2 Tenacity Challenge. That’s because it was launched in 201l by Sills, who retired in 2020 after 20 years as Bedford High School principal and then superintendent of schools.

More than 30 teams have participated in past years. This year’s virtual challenge features 12 teams from six school districts: Arlington, Lowell, Methuen, Natick, Newton, and Taunton. Each team is composed of up to six students.

Each year’s event has a theme. Appropriately, the 2021 title is, “The Impact of Systemic Racism and Covid-19 on Black and Latino Communities.”

The narrative presented to the teams reads in part, “The media has repeatedly claimed that Covid-19 is having a disproportionate impact on African-American communities… Your challenge is to craft a comprehensive and compelling argument for how this disproportionate impact is a consequence of systemic racism.  Your audience is that large group of people who believe that racial inequities are only due to people’s prejudices, and who do not understand systemic racism.”

Teams are required to “conclude with a few proposals for addressing two or three of the areas of systemic racism that you will have identified as contributing to the disproportionate impact of Covid-19.”

Guest speaker will be a METCO graduate of the Bedford Public Schools, Cydni Burton, who received a bachelor’s degree in education from Spelman College in 2018.

The virtual program’s opening comments are scheduled for 1 p.m., followed by history and art presentations, literature performances, the math quiz bowl, guest speaker, and the award ceremony, targeted for 4 p.m. Principals, teachers, and family members have received a video link. The public can also log on at https://youtu.be/nxkWSQs7AK4.

Akil Mondesir, METCO director for the Bedford schools, once again is a key coordinator for Tenacity. Several BHS program administrators and other staff members also are involved in the planning and execution of this year’s challenge: Sean Hagan,  art, designed and updates the website and runs the art challenge; Patrick Morrissey, math, designed the math quiz bowl and wrote the questions; Kim Comeiro, instructional coach, and Kristen Tracy, director of student achievement, set up the technological needs ahead of the day, and will be troubleshooting during the afternoon. Jen Ilchuk, METCO administrative assistant, is in charge of communication with the teams, judges, sponsors, and greater school communities.

“This will be at least the ninth math quiz bowl I’ve constructed and led the event,” Morrissey said. “I don’t write the questions, but instead pull questions from a variety of resources and design a contest that tests high school content standards at a high level. The topics should be familiar to the students, but the solutions require some real thinking.  Last year it was so much fun listening to students in breakout rooms work together to solve the problems and check each other’s work.”

This year’s sponsors are the BHS Parents Association, the Bedford Education Association, Community Nursery School, First Parish in Bedford, the Janey Fund Charitable Trust, and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763


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