The South El Monte High School Academic Decathlon Team

Jazmin Rocha, Sports Editor

On February 18 2021, the South El Monte Academic Decathlon Team won several awards. 

The United States Academic Decathlon is a ten-event scholastic competition for teams of high school students. Each high school enters a team of nine students: 3 Honor students (3.80 – 4.00 GPA), 3 Scholastic students (3.20 – 3.799 GPA), and 3 Varsity students (0.00 – 3.199 GPA). It is a nationwide competition. The Los Angeles County Academic Decathlon is a colorful, rigorous scholastic team competition that tests the knowledge and skills of high school students who compete against other school teams for gold, silver and bronze medals.


Decathletes are challenged to use analytical skills, performance abilities, test-taking, and writing aptitude in 10 events: Art, Economics, Essay, Interview, Language & Literature, Math, Music, Science, Social Science and Speech.


Mr. Castillo’s job as the advisor of the team is to prepare the students in the 10 events. He provides them with the resource materials that the students need to study to prepare them for the competition.  In addition he tutors his students in the math portion of the competition and provides assistance in the other areas.


Mr. Castillo stated, “Our Academic Decathlon team has a very special place in my heart.  It gives the opportunity for our students to compete with other schools that live in more privileged areas, and to be able to be in the same academic level as them, and it doesn’t matter if our community is a low-income community.”


His expectation was to be placed in the top 20 schools for Los Angeles County.  They placed 17th out of 45 schools and placed 5th in Division 2.  His goal is to place in the top 10 schools so that they can compete at the state level.  This is his third year coaching and he hopes to score enough points to move to Division 1 in the next two years.  Two years ago, the Academic Decathlon Team earned first place in Division 3 and placed 22nd.  Last year, they placed 7th in Division 2 and 22nd overall.  This year, they did better.  Each year they are improving a little bit but his ultimate goal is to eventually compete in Division 1.


The main challenge this year was motivation, which was a key factor towards success. The school schedule was not very helpful.  Once Quarter 1 was over, Mr. Castillo was not able to see the students for Quarter 2 and during the Christmas break.  After Christmas break, they had a lot to review and analyze before the competition and that was very challenging for them.


Academic Decathlon is open to any student regardless of their GPA.  It gives the students an opportunity to excel academically, and to compete with other top students from Los Angeles County.


Jayleen De La Cruz, a Junior, at South El Monte High school who’s a part of the Academic Decathlon Team received a gold award from the Interview event. She said, “My overall experience this year for Academic Decathlon was amazing. Although I do wish that we would have had competed in person because I feel that would have been an amazing experience, online was still as exciting.” She also says that there were a few challenges along the way and some of them include studying more due to the schedule that they had to follow. In the end, it was okay thanks to the guidance of Mr. Castillo. If the team had any questions he would answer them to the best of his ability, and would ask if the team needed anything.




The following students were part of this year’s Academic Decathlon:

Elizabeth Aguirre – Bronze – Essay

Jayleen de la Cruz – Gold – Interview

Alyssa Hernandez – Silver – Interview

Natalie Kami – Bronze – Interview

Kristen Rivera – Bronze – Interview

Karena Karo – Bronze – Speech

Karena Karo – Silver – Interview

Angela Garcia – Bronze – Interview

Marina Limon – Bronze – Speech

Marina Limon – Bronze – Interview

Marina Limon – Gold – Overall Decathlete (Team)

Josephyne Alvarez

Delsy Argueta

Karina Berber

Kelly Diep

Heather Gomez

Natalee Gonzalez

Olivia Guerrero

Azarel Moreno

Yessenia Maldonado

Marina Mendez

Karla Ortega

Jacqueline Palestina

Jennifer Velasco