Academic Decathlon is an elective class offered at Firebaugh High School and this year, FHS has moved up to compete in division one from previously competing at the second division level.
Fresno County promoted the team to first division, and it took lots of time to accomplish this. It is a long-term thing and Fresno County operates by using the averages over the years of competing. “There are no questions that it is a challenging division” the head advisor shares, “but we just have to do what we can to step up to the division.”
Mr. David Magoon has been the advisor for academic decathlon for the past twenty years. He shares that over these several years, there have been a lot of rewarding things.
He notes that it is rewarding to seek students who are willing to take on this challenge, which is not suitable for every student. “To get 900 pages of reading in a semester is a big step and is just really interesting to see the students who are really willing to do that,” Magoon explained.
In addition, Mr. Magoon speaks highly of his academic decathlon students, expressing a joy for seeing the good-quality students on campus who perform well in competition.
He offered a few qualities that he thinks students in Academic Decathlon should possess. One, he says, is curiosity. “[Those who are] interested in learning a lot of different things, like music theory and math and art criticism. So having a broad-based interest in a lot of different things.”
Two, is a degree of grit. Magoon states that students need to be able to just sit and do some of the challenging reading for the class, however hard it can be. Aside from the lengthy readings, academic decathlon students attend early morning math tutorials and will soon start their afternoon practices, where they study and practice speeches.
Three-year Academic Decathlon student, Angela Rosa, expresses her passion for the class, saying she bonds with the students in the class and enjoys participating in competitions using her academic skills. In her three years of competing on the Honors team (the team that is made up of 3.8 GPA scholars and above), Rosa has earned a total of five medals in different categories.
Viviana Jasso, another senior, has participated in Academic Decathlon for two years as a member of the varsity team. Last year, Jasso earned four medals: one for ranking tenth overall, one for second place division two, silver in art, silver in speech. Her favorite part about being in Academic Decathlon is “having to force [her]self to be academically competitive, as well as bonding over homework with friends, as well as having Mr. Magoon for a second class.” Concerning the biggest challenge for the year, Jasso explains that it can be difficult trying to find time between all the extracurriculars. Jasso is involved in many things, like tennis and leadership, and it gives her less time to complete the work.
Ray Alfaro’s first impression of the class is that he was thrilled. He says, “I was waiting for the suspense and the overload of work. I was excited to be challenged this year, since they took AP Lit and AP Calculus out of my schedule.” He is looking forward to the speech competition because he can’t wait to speak in front of three people. Alfaro exclaims, “I love speaking and telling a story through my words.” As a first-year student, the biggest challenge for Alfaro definitely is keeping up with the reading. When reading is assigned, he finds it difficult to stay focused. “I do enjoy reading, but when it is for my own pleasure. This reading of the guides is harder to get through.”

Samantha Rangel