Nine students from Torchbearer’s Christian Academy, in Dade City, have qualified for the 2016 International Student Convention (ISC), sponsored by Accelerated Christian Education.
The convention, held at the University of Central Missouri from May 21 to May 26, typically draws more than 4,000 youth worldwide to face off in approximately 150 events in the categories of music, oratory, art, athletics and academics.
The event is deemed to be the highlight of the school year for hundreds of schools and home-schools who follow the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum.
To qualify for the international convention, Torchbearers’ students had to place in the top six in at least one event category at the Sun Coast Regional Student Convention, held from March 28 to April 1 in Hudson. They competed against hundreds of 13-and-older students from 23 other schools across the state.
Ninth-grader Rebeka Torres fared particularly well at regionals, placing first in four individual categories: Social Studies Research, Website Design, Watercolor Art and Vocal Female Solo. She also placed second in the Scrapbooking category
“I had a great time,” Torres said. “I think it was a really good experience, and it creates a lot of responsibility for what you’re doing, and it builds your character in what you can do…for the future.”
Torres competed in regionals two years ago, recently becoming more comfortable in the art events.
“In the beginning, you’re sort of hesitant in the art,” she said. “I actually messed up once, so I had to do it all over again. I think once you start laying out the colors and matching them, I think it’s easier.”
Another Torchbearers’ student, 11th-grader Roberto Garza, stood out at regionals. Garza placed first in two individual categories: Science Exhibit Research, and Pen and Ink Art. He also finished second in the Vocal Male Solo.
“It was my first time, and I was pretty nervous,” Garza said. “It makes you overcome your fear of being on a stage in front of people. It pushes you to your limits, because you don’t know you’re able to do (something) until you start.”
Despite being a small school with an enrollment of about 70 students, Torchbearers’ puts a “big spotlight” on the fine arts, according to Principal Jan Yarbrough.
“The greatest importance is sometimes they carry this through,” Yarbrough said. “They’ll find that they’re good in art and they can go into commercial art, or they find out they’re good with singing.”
In preparing for regionals, Yarbrough said many of the students would practice at nights, balancing busy schedules to keep up their academics.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” she said. “You find out those that have integrity and are going to stick with it.”
Torchbearers’ elementary teacher Natalie Ocampo, who participated at both conventions a decade ago, guided the students in their projects throughout the school year.
“I did it when I was their age…and it was wonderful to see them develop their talents,” Ocampo said. The competitions also let students meet others who share the same interests, she said.
“I think it helps with their confidence—a lot of them come in very shy and into themselves not thinking they can do it,” she said.
The International Student Convention brings students together from several different countries, including the Philippines, South Africa and Canada.
Assistant principal Shalom Ocampo noted it’s encouraging for Torchbearers’ students to meet and compete with others who come from different backgrounds, yet follow a similar curriculum.
“This curriculum, because it’s so individualistic and unconventional, sometimes you tend to feel like, ‘Oh, I’m the only one,’ but thousands of students are using the same curriculum,” he said. “It opens up your mind …and you feel the camaraderie and that same desire to make sure you do excellent work.”
Even though nine students qualified, the school officials are unsure if they’ll actually make the trip to Missouri this year due to the expenses involved.
In 2014, they sent three students to ISC, which was held at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Torchbearers’ Christian Academy
Nine students qualified for the 2016 International Student Convention, held in Warrensburg, Missouri, from May 21 to May 26. They recently competed at the 13-and-over Sun Coast Regional Student Convention in Hudson.
The winners were: Jesus Avila, Jonathan Garza, Roberto Garza, Jose Hernandez, Kevin Hernandez, Savannah Jones, Joshua Piankowski, Rebeka Torres and Gavin Womack.
Published April 20, 2016