6 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY MAY 9-15, 2024 www.montereycountynow.com 831 Evangelina Mateo, an English and social studies teacher at Greenfield High, has an ethos she tries to instill in her students: “Greatness has no magic,” she says. “Greatness is equivalent to hard work.” Last fall, Mateo began recruiting students in all her classes—AP government, AP microeconomics and civics— to participate in Academic WorldQuest, a nationwide academic competition in which students have to answer questions about a wide range of geopolitical topics. It starts with a competition at the county level, and the winners are invited to attend the national finals in Washington, D.C. Monterey County students first started competing in the event in 2023 after Linda Dilger, a member of nonprofit World Affairs Council of Monterey Bay and retired math teacher of 36 years, spearheaded an effort to bring local students into the competition. As an enticement, and to level the playing field, WACMB promised to pay for the winning team’s trip to D.C. to compete in the national finals in the spring. Last year, the winning team in the county competition was from Monterey High School; the other two teams were from Seaside and Stevenson. This year, teams from two new schools got in the mix: Santa Catalina, and two teams from Greenfield—one with three boys and one with three girls. That happened after the County Office of Education sent out an email to every high school last year to promote the competition. Mateo answered the call, and invited Dilger to come to her class and make a pitch. About 14 students were interested, but Dilger told Mateo she’d only be able to bring two teams of four. In turn, Mateo told the students she tapped to take part that they would be dropped from their team if they didn’t maintain a C grade in the class. But she also offered a carrot: If they got at least third place in the county competition, she would give them an A on their final exam. Starting in October, Mateo began having her teams study up on the topics that would be tested in this year’s competition. That meant many weekdays when the students would stay after school for two to three hours to study them. Also paramount, she says, was first teaching them how to properly take notes. Mateo was not able to be present in person when her teams finally competed in February in Salinas—she was in the Philippines, her native country, to attend her daughter’s wedding. She got the good news at 6am local time: Greenfield’s boys team won, and the girls team placed second. “I wasn’t expecting them to win the local competition,” she says. “You know how laidback we are here.” But Mateo was able to join her team in their trip to D.C. in April, where they stayed three nights and, thanks to help from staff to U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, got a tour of the Capitol that included walking through tunnels underneath it, seeing the places where insurrectionists invaded on Jan. 6, 2021, and—most importantly, in Mateo’s opinion—watching deliberations about H.R. 2, a proposed law about border policy. The boys team was able to invite a member of the girls team, so the final roster that traveled to D.C. included Enrique Anguiano, Abraham Carrillo, Daniel Morales and Jocelyn Ortiz. The students didn’t perform as well as they’d hoped in the national competition—they placed 30th out of 37 teams—which Mateo attributes in part to jet lag. But she says the team was well prepared, and stayed up studying the material the night before. Anguiano, the team’s captain, was the first student Mateo recruited, because she saw in him somebody who could recruit others. “I wouldn’t say I’m popular,” Anguiano says. “I’m respected.” Carrillo—who Mateo expects could be a senator one day—is buddies with Anguiano, and so “kind of out of pity, I just joined.” All four students are heading off to four-year colleges next fall, and WACMB is hosting a dinner to honor their efforts on Tuesday, May 14 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Monterey. The public can register to attend by visiting wacmb.org. Top of the World How Greenfield High School students, pushed by their teacher, dominated a national academic competition. By David Schmalz A team of Greenfield High School students had the opportunity to visit the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. in April when they were traveling to compete in the Academic WorldQuest national finals. “Greatness is equivalent to hard work.” TALES FROM THE AREA CODE EVANGELINA MATEO “At Santa Cruz County Bank I know exactly who to call when I need answers. The Bank makes decisions at a local level – the same way I do. The Treasury Management team walked us through the efficiencies of online and mobile banking and the security of having positive pay protection – all of which keep our bookkeeper very happy!”