11th Annual Tenacity Challenge Returns “Live” to Bedford High School on April 30

The Tenacity Challenge returns to Bedford High School on Saturday, April 30, in person for the first time since 2019.

Twenty-two teams of up to six students each, from school districts as far away as Taunton, Natick, and Lowell, will assemble at BHS for the all-day academic scholarship competition for Latinx and African-American students.

And observers from as far as New Jersey are planning to witness the proceedings live.

“I know I’m looking forward to it,” said Akil Mondesir, Bedford’s METCO director and coordinator of the event, the 11th annual. The last two Covid-compromised challenges took place in remote format.

Promoters of the Tenacity Challenge emphasize that it culminates “an extended period of preparation, during which students build academic capacity, strengthen intellectual risk-taking, and develop enduring peer and faculty relationships.”

A middle school Tenacity Challenge back in March 2012 served as a dry run for the main event.

Several schools are sponsoring multiple teams. The three from BHS are called the Furious Four, Project  Excel, and Scholarly Six. The theme of this year’s Tenacity Challenge is: “Are new voting laws intended to prevent voter fraud or impede Latino and African-Americans from voting?” Or, as Mondesir put it, “are they safeguards or suppressions?”

Each team will advocate their positions on the issue, Mondesir said.  “We give the students the opportunity to present either side, based on the facts that they find. They’re at the tail end of the research they’ve been doing and are now tuning it up.”

After five heats, five team finalists will present their positions on the stage of Buckley Auditorium for the chance to win the competition.

But wait… there’s more. Teams also will compete in art, literature, and math.

“Students have the opportunity to create a mural based on the theme, and represent why they feel the art project encompasses it,” Mondesir explained.

The literature component is particularly creative, he continued. From a list of five books, team members can rewrite an ending, insert themselves in the story, or “identify with a certain character and dive deep to explain what the author was trying to project.”

(One of the books is Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer DeLeon. The author spoke at a Parents Diversity Council program earlier this month.)

“What I’m also looking forward to is the amount of people who have reached out to us, wanting to be a part of the entire day,” Mondesir said. “For me, it’s one of the best things about the challenge.”

The visitors will include Jenabu Williams, an administrator at the Essex County, NJ, Schools of Technology, and Dr. Percy Napier, who was Bedford METCO director when the Tenacity Challenge was launched in 2012. Several BHS Tenacity Challenge alumni also are expected to stop by Mondesir said.

“I have gotten phone calls from community members asking to be part of the day,” Mondesir reported. “We always knew we had something special. I love the fact that other people see that as well.”

The director thanks BHS colleagues who are part of the team planning and executing the event: Principal Heather Galante, Kimberly Corneiro, Sean Hagan, Jennifer Ilchuk, Patrick Morrissey, and Kristen Tracey.

He also thanked Claire Jones, now teaching in Stoughton, and Jon Sills, former BHS principal and Bedford superintendent of schools, who helped establish the Tenacity Challenge and nurtured it over its first decade. Indeed, almost two years ago organizers honored Sills by adding his name to the formal title of the event.

Mondesir also recognized Phi Beta Sigma and Zeta Phi Beta, historically African American fraternity and sorority, respectively, for contributing time and funding to the upcoming event.

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


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