- The Washington Times - Monday, August 24, 2009

CITIZEN JOURNALISM:

Chanting and cheering could be heard for blocks. What was all the fuss? Higher Achievement Program’s fifth annual Olympics of the Mind at George Washington Middle School in Alexandria. Designed to showcase the academic achievements of Higher Achievement scholars, the July 31 event included 500 middle school students from the D.C. metropolitan area as they met challenges that tested their intellects, teamwork and spirit.

“Olympics of the Mind is so much fun,” said Naomi Stanford, ambassador to the Ward 4 Achievement Center. “Being with all the scholars really gets you excited. Everybody comes full of energy and prepared to win.”

This year, Higher Achievement was joined by several special guests, including Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille; George Atallah, assistant executive director of the National Football League Players Association; and Brian van de Graaff of WJLA. In addition, more than 50 volunteers from American Express Co., Corporate Executive Board Co., Keller Williams Realty Inc. and Mayer Brown LLP participated as well. They all came together to form a corps of people dedicated to service and to the ideals of President Obama’s United We Serve initiative, a Higher Achievement spokeswoman said.

From morning until afternoon, the field games, Brain Quest and math bowls of Olympics of the Mind challenged the fifth- through eighth-grade scholars to work diligently and earn points for their respective achievement centers.

Competition was intense, and teamwork was evident throughout the long day. In the end, the Ward 4 Achievement Center was recognized for the best banner, the Ward 7 Achievement Center received the award for the best chant, and the Alexandria Achievement Center was recognized for best spirit and was crowned the 2009 Olympics of the Mind champions.

“At Higher Achievement, our goal is to flood our scholars with opportunities,” said Richard Anthony Tagle, Higher Achievement’s chief executive officer. “The Olympics of the Mind event serves each year as the finale of our summer academy. This year we were pleased to be able to coordinate the event with the United We Serve Education Week to help spotlight the valuable contributions our volunteers and mentors offer to our programs and scholars.”

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