Header image: Jennings Rec. Center’s 1st Place squad (left to right): Mrs. Andrea Dortch-Thomas, Jade Henry, La Nya Goldman, Jonquil Mendoza, Trinity Jackson, Morgan Irby, Mr. Michael Ayers, Mrs. LaKeisha Goldman [PHOTO: COURTESY]
For the first time in a long time, since the competition got really competitive, a team from the Jennings Recreation Center (JRC) took first place at the 19th Annual Black History Knowledge Bowl, held at Weisser Park Youth Center. What made the win truly special is that the group of JRC youngins bested six other teams with older participants of middle and high school students; the Jennings Center’s oldest participant was a sixth grader and the youngest was in the fourth grade.
“These babies really came to battle,” said Michael Ayers, Supervisor of Jennings Recreation Center at Parks & Recreation. “They did a superb job.” He started the knowledge bowl because he wanted to help the children at his after-school center to learn more about their black history.
Over the years the competitiveness became actionable; for the past two years, the bowl switched to a jeopardy-style format, one that makes the competitors wait more before answering, because the students kept jumping the gun and pushing the button too fast; it happened a couple of times for the Jennings team during the 2019 contest.
There may be an expansion comin’ to the bowl in the next few years, splitting up the age groups; students age 10 to 16 can participate but there have been 18-year-olds in the bowl.
When it began, only four centers participated: Jennings, Weisser Park and Cooper Community Center, and another group from the Eagles Nest. Now, the competition boasts teams from the Memorial Park, Blerd Society, McMillen Park Community Center, and the Euell Wilson Center. The Cooper Center, McMillen and Euell Wilson were previous winners.
“Everybody’s a winner because [the competitors] are really learning how to understand their history,” Ayers said.
The Jennings Center’s students, with the help of volunteer tutors Andrea Dortch-Thomas, LaKeisha Goldman, and Jennings Center staff were met with harder lessons this year for their preparation. When asked how much studying was involved, Ayers answered with the incalculable “a lot.”