The following testimonials are a tribute to the program and the experience high school students gain from participation in the Academic Decathlon® program. Some former decathletes share their thoughts by answering “What has Academic Decathlon® meant to you?”


Tremendous, life-shaping experience that taught skills that I still utilize professionally and personally today.

 Kevin D. Malecek, Commissioner for Lake County, Ohio

Academic Decathlon® was the most valuable of my high school experiences. More than just ingraining multitudes of facts in my mind, it taught me life skills that will continue to serve me forever. Participating was the best decision I have ever made, bar none.

Graham Garner, Student at the University of Mississippi

Academic Decathlon® expanded my horizons by getting me interested in subjects like social science, literature and art which previously I had not appreciated. It built my confidence as I realized my ability to excel was related to the amount of effort or practice I dedicated to it. This changed my outlook going forward as I began to believe I could excel at any topic or skill to which I was dedicated. It made me a more well-rounded person and most importantly, it has greatly nurtured my love for learning.

Brittany Shrefler, Physician at The Ohio State University Medical Center

Everything. That year was one of the best years I had as a teen. I grew so much as a person, met a lot of great people, learned a lot of interesting information, and just got to be part of something wonderful. My coach, Mr. Masco, was an inspiration and I’ll never forget him. Memories with friends I’ll never forget. We won the Ohio round and went to nationals and it was unforgettable. I judged for several years after for speech and interview too and had a blast. Last, but VERY not least, I’ve been married to my fellow team Decathlete for 10 years. We grew close that year and began dating the very day of the competition. 15 years and 3 children later, I’ll be forever grateful for this great opportunity I got to be a part of.

Jennifer Stanek, Social Media Manager at Brandt’s Candies

Academic Decathlon® transported me back in time and beyond the borders of Ohio and the United States and it opened me up to many different cultures and ways of thinking. The opportunity to delve into the rich histories, literature, music, art, and scientific achievements of regions around the world transformed me into a global thinker and a more understanding citizen. Beyond the academic content, the memories I made with my fellow teammates and competitors will be cherished for the rest of my life. Thank you Academic Decathlon®!

Khin-Kyemon Aung, Medical Student at Harvard Medical School

Decathlon was responsible for keeping me academically engaged during a less-than-thrilling high school academic experience: we studied subjects in AcaDec that were not available to me otherwise. It’s where I really developed my work ethic. It’s the reason I discovered a love for economics. I have a number of friendships I developed in AcaDec that have lasted in the years since.

Lisa Ryan, IT Business Analyst at Management Science Associates

Being surrounded and challenged by intellectually curious people.

Lauren Allen, Senior Business Analyst at Capital One Financial Corporation

Academic Decathlon® was something I did following in my sister’s shoes, and at the time I applied, I had no idea what type of impact it would actually have on my life and my career. One of the two years I was on the team our super quiz topic was, “The Brain.” Following high school I attended nursing school and had my practicum in the Neuro ICU- compared to my colleagues, I had an edge. What I had learned in Decathlon about the brain not only helped me succeed in nursing school, but it helped me land an excellent job working for a top-notch hospital. Had I not been exposed to that super quiz topic, I doubt I would be where I am today with my career. I went on to become the assistant manager and then the head nurse manager of a neuro step down unit at a young age. I am proud to say that I now hold the position of nursing supervisor where I am able to be a resource and mentor for many nurses throughout the hospital I work for. In addition to the exposure I received in various topics that were offered to myself and my team, I developed life-long friendships with many of my cohorts as well as teachers, on and off social media. Academic Decathlon® was a blessing in disguise, only to have realized it’s true value with age.

Chantel Thibodeaux, Nursing Supervisor for Medical Surgery at University Hospitals

Academic Decathlon® was a defining time in my life. I built lasting friendships, learned how to manage my time and was immersed in topics that I never would have thought to study on my own. I came out of my shell and learned how to professionally present myself. Thanks to Decathlon, I was prepared for college and law school. Even when others thought I was crazy for competing two years in a row (it does take time and dedication), I couldn’t imagine my high school years without Decathlon.

Christine Cooper, Attorney at Koehler Fitzgerald LLC

It was one of the most exciting and rewarding things I accomplished in High School.

Michael Letterle, Lead Software Engineer at PreEmptive Solutions

My team has been like a family to me. This program means more to me than anything else I’ve done in high school. I cannot express here, how much I care for and respect Academic Decathlon®, for the opportunities, challenges, and fun it has provided me with for the three years I participated.

Timothy McCarthy, Student at Miami University

I could write paragraphs upon paragraphs about everything I loved and still love about Academic Decathlon®. There’s so much – the knowledge gained, the social aspect of being on a team, the reward of getting back scores after putting so much work into them, the study and interpersonal skills gained… but after a lot of thought over the time since I’ve graduated high school, I believe I can sum it up perfectly in one short thought: Academic Decathlon® gave me confidence that I would never otherwise have found in myself.

Bethany Taylor, Nanny in San Francisco, California

Academic Decathlon® is an amazing program. I learned so much more than the average high school student through this program and realized many new interests. Academic Decathlon® forced me to overcome my fears and learn to work better with a team.

Heather Brooks, Student at Wright State University

The bonds I forged with my AcaDec family at Willoughby South HS taught me the value of hard work in relation to studies and helped me overcome my fear of speaking in front of others, something I do everyday as a teacher. I wouldn’t be where I am without the speech and interview categories of the decathlon. For that I am forever thankful! Every school should offer this program. It’s advantages far outweigh the expense of the materials.

Mike Schwarten, Spanish teacher at South-Western City Schools in Columbus, Ohio

Academic Decathlon® introduced me to the concept that all areas of our society are interrelated. Problems which derive from one source, manifest in another sphere. By studying an era of history or a topic in depth for a year in high school, I gained an appreciation and understanding of the goals of a Liberal Arts education. I take this appreciation and understanding into research in systems biology and environmental theology.

Herbert Sizek, Student at The College of Wooster

Academic Decathlon® was the best part of my high school experience. I bonded with the best of friends, I expanded my knowledge, and I competed with the best minds in the world. It was a place where I belonged; it still IS a place where I belong. I truly love learning, I love the leadership experiences it provided, and I loved competing at the highest level. I would often say that Academic Decathlon® wasn’t an activity, it was a lifestyle choice. I spent all of my time in the Academic Decathlon® room, with Decathletes and with our coach. It helped get me into college, and it helped me flourish in high school. I can’t say enough about what Academic Decathlon® did for me, and what it means to me; Academic Decathlon® is simply an amazing program.

Wilson Mullen

Through my participation in Academic Decathlon®, I was taken on so many adventures: through the streets of revolution-torn France, breadlines of the Great Depression, rivers of imperial Africa, and politics of the Cold War. Not only did it quench my thirst for adventure; however, Academic Decathlon® was the major shaping force in the development of my love of learning, communication skills, value of delayed gratification, and worldview, not to mention some undoubtedly life-long friendships with teammates. These qualities  have made my post-high school life joyful and fulfilling.

Christina Shrefler, Student at The University of Notre Dame

Wow, everything. It was the most important part of my high school career, and an integral time for me both personally and academically. I’m speechless to enumerate the ways in which I benefited from being involved in the program.  Every year I was on the team, I felt like I was part not just of a dedicated group of scholars, but also part of an incredibly loving and supportive family. The ability to study so many different subject areas and to work with a bevy of wise and experienced teachers and coaches prepared me to make the most of my college career. In my current job planning public library programs for adults, I use the interdisciplinary approach I came to love about Academic Decathlon® to craft events and classes of interest and value to my community. I still reference articles I read, facts I learned, and insights I gained from my Academic Decathlon® studies.  And the experiences (and inside jokes) I shared with my teammates—people I number as friends to this day—are immeasurable.

L.P. Coladangelo

Academic Decathlon® was a group of similarly minded students who worked together toward a common goal. I’ve always loved learning new things and Academic Decathlon® encouraged us to delve deeper into subjects than a normal class would. I made friendships in Aca and gained a confidence in myself that has taken me far in life.  Academic Decathlon® helped me feel proud of being “nerdy”, happy that I liked learning, and made me feel like I fit in.

Natalie Parham

Academic Decathlon® provided a place for me to discover how to learn. It forced me to face my weaknesses in areas such as public speaking. Academic Decathlon® was the most meaningful part of my high school education.

William Powers, Student at The Ohio State University

Academic Decathlon® provided me with too many benefits to count. The knowledge that I acquired made me a more well-rounded individual and prepared me for a liberal arts college education. Particularly useful were the Speech and Interview events. Any student who has the chance to join AcaDec should do it.

Dan Krancevic, Analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets

Acadec taught me life skills I never would have received in high school. It taught me how to endure marathon study sessions. It taught me how to always be successful during job interviews, and it taught me how to command an audience while public speaking. The comradery I had with my teammates was special. Many of them are some of my best friends to this day.

Tom Orr

Meeting amazing new people as well as making connections and gaining knowledge that will last a life time.

Grant Pitarys

Academic Decathlon means learning skills I would need for the future, overcoming fears that terrified me, meeting new people and spending time with good friends. It is a constant learning process that I’m so grateful to have been a part.

Kathleen Lawson

Academic Decathlon® was crucial to my high school development. Through my two years on the team, I learned how to study, I learned how to grow genuinely interested in learning, I learned how to be comfortable with myself. Acadec taught me to honor my strengths and weaknesses both, and through both the breadlines of the Great Depression and the imperial conquests of Europe, I made terrific and lasting friendships. I wouldn’t be who I am today without Academic Decathlon®.

Mira Walunis, Freelance Content Creator