In February, the team “Iran to First Place” from Creekside High School lived up to their name, clinching victory at the 19th annual Admiral Jonathan T. Howe Academic WorldQuest competition. This achievement earned them a spot at The Carlos and Malu Alvarez National Academic WorldQuest Competition, where they competed against top students from councils nationwide in the heart of Washington D.C., with all-expenses-paid trip by the Council.   

Meet the Winning Team 

“Iran to First Place” is consists of four outstanding students from Creekside High School: Juniors Sohum Sheth and Addison Hopwood, and Seniors Sam Kass and Benjamin York. With the dedicated guidance of their teacher, Mr. Stacy Ray, who has been involved with Great Decisions for seven years, the team spent the school year rigorously preparing for the competition. “Having taught all four members of the team at one point, I was already aware of their intelligence and work ethic. However, I knew they would be facing some stiff competition, but that never fazed them,” Mr. Ray explained. Their dedication paid off as they secured a spot at the national competition held in Washington D.C. on April 20, 2024. 

The team’s preparation was intense, focusing on both knowledge and strategy. “I worked hard to prepare for the national competition, but I reminded myself to focus on having fun too,” stated Addison. 

IranToFirstPlace at the National Academic WorldQuest Competition

The National Competition Experience 

The Carlos and Malu Alvarez National Academic WorldQuest Competition, held at the National Institute of Peace, featured ten rounds of fast-paced trivia questions covering topics such as “Population Shifts in Africa,” “Sports and Diplomacy,” and “Promoting Green Energy in Europe.” Throughout the competition, students interacted with representatives from esteemed organizations like the Peace Corps, National Security Council, Stimson Center, Korea Economic Institute, Atlantic Council, Middle East Institute, and the U.S. Institute of Peace. 

The trip offered enriching experiences beyond the competition. Students had the chance to connect with peers from across the nation and enjoy a genuine D.C. experience, starting with a reception at the National Museum of American Diplomacy hosted by the State Department. The itinerary also included a scavenger hunt across the National Mall and downtown D.C., ensuring they saw the highlights of the Capitol. 

Sam Kass, Sohum Sheth, Addison Hopwood, and Benjamin York at the U.S. Institute of Peace

The team unanimously agreed that the most memorable part of the trip was the connections they made with professionals. Mr. Ray arranged a dinner with a former Creekside student, now the Chief Speech Writer for the Speaker of the House, and they had a surprise meeting with their local representative, Congressman Rutherford, at the airport. Sohum reflected on this encounter, stating “I think for me personally, meeting Zack and Congressman Rutherford was inspirational because I could engage with them communicatively and not on the receiving end of any agenda. It was an enlightening reminder of the humanity in our political institutions and how we as students can develop constructively in a political career.”  

Overall, the experience was a powerful blend of discovery, connection, and teamwork. Stacy Ray remarked, “I would like to thank our sponsors, Bill Armstrong and Carol Campbell, for giving these wonderful students the opportunity to express their genuine interest in world affairs. Sam, Addison, Sohum, and Ben have great futures ahead of them, and I’m confident that this experience will be a cornerstone memory as they reflect on the defining moments of their lives.” 

Best of luck to the returning team members next year and to the graduating seniors as they embark on their college journeys this fall. 

This year’s Academic WorldQuest was made possible by our generous sponsors, including our 2024 title sponsor, Doolittle Family Foundation, and tech sponsor PS27 Ventures. 

About Academic WorldQuest  

Academic WorldQuest is a team game testing competitors’ knowledge of international affairs, geography, history, and culture. The World Affairs Council of Jacksonville began its own program, the Admiral Jonathan T. Howe Academic WorldQuest in 2005, and features a trivia-style six-round, ten-question competition. With only thirty seconds to answer the question, the stakes are high as students across Northeast Florida compete for the grand prize of an expenses paid trip to Washington D.C. Next year’s 20th Annual Academic WorldQuest is scheduled for February 13, 2025.