International Champion problem solvers return home with medals

Posted: Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Future Problem Solvers Team Alaska is home from the International competition held at the University of Connecticut with grins, medals, and stories that will make even their future grandchildren proud.

Over 2,200 students from around the world and all 50 states competed at the International Conference. In the senior division the experienced team comprised of Soldotna High School students Heidi Biggs, Riley Kent, Jennifer McCard and John Gomulak brought home the silver medal taking second out of more than 60 teams and missing the gold by only a few points.

"An outstanding accomplishment," said coach Lisa Kent, "These kids all had to win first in their division at the state level to qualify for the international conference, which is no easy task as the competition is stiff from the get go," added Kent. "This competition, and FPS in general, is the best thing I've gotten involved in; it's the one program I've been exposed to that is most applicable to real life," said Heidi Biggs.

Representing Team Alaska in the Scenario writing competition and also bringing home a second place medal was FPS veteran and SoHi junior Kaitlin Vadla. Vadla and three other students whom she had never met before had to interweave a story based upon the 2003 International topic Worldwide Communication.

"There is no other conference like it anywhere, it was amazing and really tough because the four of us had never met before and we had to work together for two and a half hours and make a coherent and interesting futuristic scenario. We gelled very well together as a team, it was just one of those things where everything just clicked and we were able to really work well together. It was an awesome experience really pretty amazing," said Vadla.

Other members of Team Alaska competing in the individual junior, middle, and senior divisions were Hanna Romberg, Becky Kilfoyle, and Matt Jones. Competing on the Alaska Junior Team was Maya Johnson, Taylor Matson, Averee Amend and Quinn Sawyer from Mt. View Elementary School, for me the best part of being there was meeting people from other states and around the world," commented Maya Johnson.

The International FPS Conference offered a myriad of other academic opportunities for the championship teams including skits, workshops and another aspect of the FPS program known as Community Problem Solving. "I really hope to see Alaska become more involved with this part of the program. These kids have accomplished some amazing goals within their communities," remarked program evaluator Gretchen Hundertmark. Going to competition required dedication, tons of research, teamwork and creativity, "This is what colleges and employers look for, I hope that the school district and the community continues to see what a valuable program this is for our future and our kids," said Penny Vadla, FPS Coach, English teacher and parent.

With the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District no longer able to fund those going to the competition, qualifying for the International conference posed another real life problem for the team, raising the funds to get there. Through a series of public presentations, car washes, raffles, community work tasks, and contributions the team was able to raise the $1,200 per student cost to attend the competition, "We all want to thank everyone who helped us get here, we couldn't have done it without the community support," said Kaitlin Vadla.

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