Academic clubs flourish at Flint Hill


Photo Credit: Ken Andino

Six Quiz Bowl club members pose for a photo, buzzers at the ready. From Right: junior Jack Lovelace, sophomore Merritt Schwartz, senior Varvara Troitski, junior Lena Cohen, sophomore Sayeed Akhtar, and junior Trini Kechkian.

By Kamryn Olds, News Editor

Over the years, Flint Hill has been a school of constant innovation and progress. In the 1980s, it was known for its highly successful basketball team. For the past ten years, Flint Hill immersed itself in the world of technology, growing to become a nationally ranked school in Apple’s One to One program. Now, it seems that an even greater innovation is underway: the growth of academic clubs, led by Certamen, CyberPatriot, and Quiz Bowl.

Though they often tend to stay out of the spotlight, which is usually given to other programs, these clubs are making a large impact on the culture of the school as a whole. Specifically, CyberPatriot and Quiz Bowl are two clubs that have just recently come into the Flint Hill community, joining the already established Certamen program. Though still infants compared to other programs within the school, these new clubs have already found great success.

Ken Andino, Upper School Classics Teacher, has aided in the establishment of Quiz Bowl, a game similar to Jeopardy and It’s Academic.  

“Quiz Bowl was something that we actually started just by talking about it,” said Andino. “It was [something] that I did in high school, and I also played in college… So, I asked some students about [bringing it to Flint Hill], and they said, ‘that sounds cool.’ And so, we just decided to start playing.”

Quiz Bowl has grown in its following over the course of this year. The team even earned a spot in the top eight at a competition in November.

Just as impressive has been the growth of CyberPatriot during this school year alone, the first full year that it has been in existence. The club was established by sophomore Vale Tolpegin, with the aid of Upper School Computer Science and Robotics Teacher Michael Snyder. Throughout this year, the club has had tremendous success, having already made it to the state competition level.

Tolpegin, whom Snyder called “one of the best students [he has] ever had,” is a great of example of a student who has both benefited from and contributed to these growing academic clubs. He loves coding and appreciates the fact that there is a place where he can explore this passion. He is also enjoying the success of his endeavors.

“We did very well in CyberPatriot,” said Tolpegin. I’m looking forward to seeing the final scores for [that competition]. Hopefully, we’ll make it into the top regionals.”

Certamen, a game fundamentally similar to Quiz Bowl but focused exclusively on the Classics, has been a part of the Flint Hill Classics Club for many years. Students from 6th to 12th grade participate, playing on three different levels (lower, middle, and upper). For many years, this program has done very well, winning or placing in various state tournaments each year. Over time, the program has become especially distinguished in the Northern Virginia, with members often being chosen for the state team, which represents Virginia in the annual National Junior Classical League Convention.

Senior Varvara Troitski has been involved in Flint Hill’s Certamen program from a young age:

“I’ve been our team’s mythologist (studying Greek and Roman mythology) since middle school,” says Troitski. “I’ve always been drawn to the subject, and Certamen is a really interesting way to channel that knowledge! I’ve also met so many interesting people through Latin and the JCL; I wouldn’t trade this for the world.”

Whether or not they have been in existence for a long period of time, these clubs have become yet another academic arena through which students are able to express their passions and explore their interests. They have become more and more of a presence within the community and show no sign of slowing down anytime soon: Quiz Bowl will be attending its second tournament in the spring, CyberPatriot is looking forward to possibly qualifying for a state competition, and Certamen will be competing at its State Finals tournament this April.

In addition, there is also the robotics program. Though, it is technically considered a class at Flint Hill, the dedication of many its students has greatly contributed to its club-like atmosphere, outside of the classroom and often after school and on the weekends. It has also provided and prepared many of the students involved in CyberPatriot.

Snyder, the one primarily responsible for this program and its development, spoke on his excitement for the future.

“I’m most excited about the growth of the program,” he said. “This is [the robotics program’s] fourth year now. We started off with five students, and now over 10% of the school is coming through [the robotics room].”

It is easy to forget about the clubs at Flint Hill. They sometimes lack the flash and promotion demonstrated in other areas such as athletics. However, they are just as important to the community, and are growing in influence. These clubs are full of spirited and passionate students, and they provide an outlet for academic labor and creativity outside of the classroom.

Even more importantly, they are evidence of constant innovation and growth. These clubs now give students who may not be into sports, art, drama, or music a place where they can still be on a team—a place where they can be with people who are interested in the same field of study and want to improve, whether they are considering pursuing a career there or just exploring the subject for the sake of their own interest.