Knowing the world earns spot in bee

Remembering a childhood friend helped a geography champ win a local bee.
Sunday, January 11, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:23 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

“Urdu is an official language of a Muslim country that was once part of British India. Name this country.”

The correct answer, as 13-year-old Brandon Reddick of Columbia knew, is Pakistan. The West Junior High eighth-grader credits knowing it to his friendship with Sagar Vengurleter of India, whom Brandon has known since preschool.

On Friday, Brandon won at the school level of the National Geographic Bee. It was one of 16 competitions held, or to be held, at schools throughout Columbia and sponsored by the Golden K Kiwanis Club.

“Being able to answer the last question was pretty cool,” he said. “He (Sagar) was the only reason I knew that.”

Brandon was one of 19 class winners who competed in the West cafeteria on Friday. Students sat in two long rows at tables with nameplates, a map, a sheet of paper and a pencil in front of an audience of parents and peers.

Students were asked geography questions supplied by National Geographic magazine. During each round, participants were given 15 seconds to answer each oral and written questions. After missing two questions, students were no longer allowed to compete. After the third round, Brandon and Kelsey Mescher competed for the championship.

Brandon, as well as other school winners in Missouri, will now take a written test to qualify for the spring state bee in Columbia. The students with the top 100 scores will compete at the state level; 55 state and territory winners then compete for up to $25,000 scholarship at the national bee in Washington, D.C.

Although Brandon didn’t study much for the school competition, his mother, Kecia Reddick, said he reads a lot and just picks up the information. They also watch television news and discuss it. Brandon said he needs to prepare more for the state competition.

“I feel pretty confident (about the test), but I have to study a lot more,” he said.

Students in the fourth through eighth grades are eligible to compete in the geography bee. Winner information from other schools that have held their bees was not available Saturday.

The Golden K Kiwanis Club pays the Columbia schools’ $50-each entry fees to participate in the geography bee — an $800 bill — as an effort to help out the school system. Linda Russell, geography bee coordinator and a social studies teacher at West, said the competition helps foster interest in geography.

The Golden K Kiwanis Club hopes money will become available to start similar programs in the Ashland and Hallsville school districts, said member Gene Ruhr.

“We hope to leave a message that other schools should get involved with the bee,” Ruhr said.

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