Girls Team from San Elijo Hills Advances to World Finals in ‘Odyssey of the Mind’ Competition at Iowa State University

San Elijo Middle School

A San Elijo Hills team, consisting of six sixth-grade girls from San Elijo Middle School, tied for first place in the California state “Odyssey of the Mind” competition at UC Riverside and is advancing to the World Finals at Iowa State University in Ames, May 25-28.  They will compete against sixth to eighth graders from around the world.

Earlier, they won first place in the regional competition held at San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas.

“What’s amazing is the team is going to the World Finals for the second year in a row,” said Ted Yun, who co-coaches the team along with Ella Negrou and Lisa Rodgers.  “The girls competed as a team at the World Finals last year and for the same team to advance two years in a row is extremely rare.”

Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. In this annual competition, team members apply their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics.  Thousands of teams from throughout the U.S. and about 25 other countries participate in the program.  Approximately 800 teams compete at the World Finals.

The San Elijo Hills team chose a theatrical challenge, a skit focusing on a mammal, a fish and a bird, according to Yun.   “The animals must work together to solve challenges to help a stranger, help each other, and ultimately prevent the imminent demise of all animals in the world! All the while, the animals must display unique emotions. And on top of that, they must incorporate a song and dance!” he said.

In the team’s eight-minute original play the animal characters work together in order to help a middle schooler who is getting older and losing interest in her creative world as her real world responsibilities begin to become more important.

“The skit is entertaining, insightful and really fun to watch,” said Yun, adding that the team consists of Elisenne, Ella, Katja, Marissa, Maya and Morgan.

As part of the competition, the youngsters must brainstorm, research, write the script, build sets and props, create costumes, rehearse the play, and finally, compete against other teams. And, they have to do all of it on their own, without outside involvement.

The nonprofit San Elijo Hills Foundation provided the team with the nonprofit status they needed to compete.

The team has established a GoFundMe site to raise money for expenses: https://www.gofundme.com/bkxk64qc

“All donations, small or large, are gratefully encouraged,” said Yun.  “It will cost about $10,000 to send the team to the World Finals, where more than 10,000 kids, coaches and parents will congregate.”

“The girls had an amazing time last year at the World Finals,” said Yun.  “They all agreed it was the ‘best experience of their lives!’”

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