By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR IN CHIEF
For Riki Higashida, now is really the time the hit the books. As a member of the Granada Hills Charter High School, he will be competing in the U.S. Academic Decathlon in Charlotte, N.C. on April 28-29.
It’s the first time for Granada Hills to compete in the national competition. Last month they won the California Academic Decathlon title, overcoming perennial powerhouses Marshall High School and El Camino Real High School with a score of 50,801 out of a possible 60,000 points.
“We’re trying to keep our same intensity and the same study habits. It’s really nice the other schools, El Camino and Marshall, are offering to help us,” said Higashida, speaking during a break from study. “After winning a state competition, it feels like we’re representing our whole state.”
Higashida, the son of Neil Higashida and Donna Sato Higashida, is a member of the San Fernando Honganji Buddhist Temple and an Eagle Scout from Boy Scout Troop 764 out of the Venice Japanese American Community Center. Currently a senior at Granada Hills, he plans to major in biophysics in the fall.
The Academic Decathlon is a team competition that challenges students in 10 categories: art, economics, essay, interview, language and literature, math, music, science, social science and speech. This year’s theme topic is the Great Depression.
Higashida explained that he and the others in the nine-member team study every day until 8:30 or 9 p.m., including Saturdays. The hard work has paid off, even in topics that Higashida found challenging at first.
“When I was first put on the team, they said I had to not just be good in math, I had to excel in all of the topics,” Higashida said. “I hated art history at first, but with the team putting time into me, they made art one of my strengths.”
Others who will be cheering Higashida on will be his grandmother Rose and older brother Bryan. He also credited his friends and church for inspiring him to keep working.
“It wouldn’t have been possible to get as far as I did without the support of my family, my church and my friends,” said Higashida.