Academic Competition champs honored at breakfast event

Downingtown STEM’s Varsity team smile with their four plaques: Coach of the Year, Competitor of the Year, Team MVP, and Second Place.

On Thursday, May 18, 2023, students gathered for the Breakfast of Champions at the Desmond Hotel and Conference Center to honor the hard work and dedication of the Chester County Academic Competition teams.

Coaches and teams attended to share memories from throughout the season, connect with other teams, celebrate academic excellence, and to come together one last time for the 2022-23 school year.

The banquet began with opening remarks from CCIU’s Special Events Coordinator, Kathy Gurnee, and a welcome message from CCIU Executive Director Dr. George F. Fiore. After the opening messages, everyone enjoyed a buffet-style brunch prepared by the Desmond staff.

The breakfast featured keynote speaker Emma Boettcher, a Chester County native who competed in the Chester County Academic Competition when she was a student at Conestoga High School. Boettcher, who is a user experience researcher at MIT, a former librarian and Jeopardy! champion, shared an inspiring story about her journey and how the Chester County Academic Competition contributed to her success.

“To be a champion of learning is to see the impact of what you do outside of the confines of a one-time event, but to see it in the context of your fellow learners whether that’s within the county, the state or the world. This will help you build connections, and not just the competition ones; rather, ones of collaboration so you can see what others are bringing to the table. And being a champion of learning is to realize that there is not always insight or an easy answer to every question you are given. Even after some hard-earned success, you get to keep learning,” said Boettcher during her keynote remarks.

Boettcher continued, “My hope is that these are some of the qualities you recognize in yourself and the people sitting around you. Because if you know what being a champion looks like, maybe there’s a way to approach academic competition while embracing those values.”

The 2023 Breakfast of Champions concluded with an awards ceremony to honor one individual from each of the Chester County teams, and to announce the Chester County Competitor of the Year and Coach of the Year awards.

This year’s Competitor of the Year, Yaduraj Choudhary, and Coach of the Year, Mrs. Kristen Pugliese-Kash, are both from Downingtown Area School District’s STEM Academy.

“I’m really proud of our team,” said Choudhary. “This is the first time our JV and varsity teams made it to finals, and we did great. I’m proud of the growth that this team and program have made over the last four years. I’m really thankful for my parents for always supporting me, for my coaches, Mrs. P.K. and Mr. D., for always supporting me and believing in me, and finally, my teammates, for making these four years a great time,” Choudhary concluded.

The Coach of the Year is an annual recognition that is awarded to one Chester County Academic Competition coach for leading by example and fostering a commitment to excellence and fair play. Mr. Stephen DiRomualdo, assistant coach for Downingtown STEM, accepted the award in the absence of Mrs. Pugliese-Kash.

“This is the most dedicated I’ve ever seen one of our teams,” said DiRomualdo. “They created their own algorithms and statistical equations, so all of the applause really goes to them. As for Mrs. P.K., congratulations! This is so well deserved. She does a lot to support the academic team and ensures all communications go out; she really is on top of everything,” expressed DiRomualdo.

The mission of Chester County Academic Competition is to promote lifelong learning, celebrate academic achievement and enhance self-confidence as members of a team by providing challenging opportunities for high school students to develop academic, social and personal skills.

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