Auburn Middle School student Luka Balestracci took home second place in the Massachusetts Geographic Alliance state Geography Bee held March 31 at Elms College in Chicopee, MA. The Geo Bee accepts the top 100 students in grades 4-8 from across the state to compete for the state championship. The winner of the state championship goes to the national Geo Bee in Washington, D.C. to compete for a $50,000 college scholarship.
While Lukas won’t be heading to D.C., that certainly does not minimize his accomplishment.
“This is his second trip to the state Geo Bee” said Lukas’ mother, Jen. “Last year, he did not make it through the qualifying rounds, so this was exciting.”
Many schools in Massachusetts hold an annual geography bee. The winner from each school is then eligible to take a statewide geography test, and the top 100* scores statewide qualify for the Geo Bee at Elms College.
Those 100 students spend the morning in preliminary rounds, with the finalists moving on to the afternoon championship rounds, where Lukas finished second.
Lukas and his mother credit AMS Social Studies teacher, Matthew Watson, for contributing to Lukas’ success.
“Mr. Watson has been instrumental in Lukas’s enthusiasm in the subject and has been supportive of his passion to learn.” said Jen Balestracci. “He facilitates the Geography Bee at AMS, and attended the Geo Bee with Lukas. This is a great accomplishment, and a great acknowledgement of the school” she added.
Watson says AMS has been running a Geography Bee for 20 years or so, which is open to every student in grades 6-8. He noted that it is pretty significant to have one student win the AMS Geo Bee two years in a row, and to have that student then test into the top 100 statewide twice is outstanding.
“Lukas is a very curious and ambitious student” said Watson. “When he has questions, or wants to know more about a topic, he will spend time looking it up. He has a great thirst for knowledge.”
AMS Principal, Joe Gagnon, added, “Auburn Middle is so proud of Lukas, as this is his second trip to the finals in the past two years. Lukas has been and continues to be both a stellar scholar and citizen here at Auburn Middle School.”
Watson noted that, in addition to the Geography Bee, Lukas also qualified to compete in the National History Bee held in Boston, MA.
*(Note – this year there were 101 participants. Presumably there was a tie, but AMD was not able to get clarification at press time. Probably doesn’t make that much difference to the story, though ?).