Students place eighth in the world |

Students place eighth in the world

Susan Wood, Tahoe Daily Tribune

“Traveling isn’t a reward for working. It’s homework for living,” a Travel and Leisure magazine ad read.

That’s precisely the life lesson seven South Tahoe Middle School students gained and showed after placing eighth out of 66 teams during the worldwide Destination Imagination competition in Knoxville, Tenn. The mental Olympics of sorts was once called the Odyssey of the Mind.

The budding young stars who placed first in the preceding regional competition included Caitlin Churchill, Kyle Davis, Nathan Garofolas, Ali Martinez, Kelsey McKlurg, Bubba Romagnolo and Ashley Rumble.

The group of innovative thinkers competed against students from Korea, Canada, Guatemala and Singapore by performing eight- and 10-minute dancing and singing routines. The segments were designed to condense the cultures of the Congo, Tahiti and Australia in three skits. The music ranged from aboriginal to rap. Even a Beach Boys tune introduced the East to the West.

The students took part in the three-day contest at the University of Tennessee, which opened up another world to the youngsters.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if these kids later went to that university,” coach and parent Stacy Romagnolo said, describing the dorm-room experience as “an all-night slumber party.” Romagnolo was joined by five other parents and an assistant coach.

It appears the students also discovered Southern culture — eating grits and perfecting their drawl.

“We had perfect accents by the time we were through,” Romagnolo said.

The life experience culminated with weeks and weeks of project research and learning about their designated nation. It also resulted in six weeks of fund raising that netted $11,000, she said.

Hats off to contributors like those Tahoe motorists with clean cars, Romagnolo said. The students raised money by washing vehicles.

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