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In an attempt to lighten the mood and promote the holiday spirit, students were serenaded with classic Disney tunes as they entered the testing room of the Thanksgiving Tournament on November 23rd, 2014. The waves of familiar childhood music sweeping across the room calmed the students in preparation for the intense tournament ahead of them. Soon, Angelina Ye and Neah Lekan, the emcees, kicked off the tournament with an enthusiastic introduction.

After final reminders and instructions for the students, the testing began. The tests challenged the students in a variety of concepts, including algebra, geometry, and counting and probability. The Individual round consisted of 4 thought-provoking eight-problem sets, each lasting 12 minutes. Third grade participant Winston commented that the problems pushed the mathematical limits of what “third graders can and cannot do.”

After a short break, students returned to the MPR to compete in the team round. During the team round, students collaborated with each other to solve a series of math problems from a variety of topics. The next round was the activity round, involving a Thanksgiving-themed crossword puzzle which cleverly produced the answer 2014.

Before the test, students brought toys to donate to our fourth annual toy drive. During the breaks between tests, students flocked to the bake sale table, new to this year’s Thanksgiving Tournament. The snacks were provided by parent and student donors.

In preparation for the tournament, volunteers had spent hours of hard work planning and setting up for the tournament. Months before the tournament was actually held, volunteers contacted venues, recruited student and parent volunteers, prepared for the toy drive and all-new bake sale, and advertised for the event throughout the county. On the day of the competition, the windy weather proved to be a sizable challenge: the volunteers attempted to secure all the signs and papers onto the tables and walls, battling the formidable forces of nature.

The volunteers’ tasks were no less challenging that those of the student participants. As the students labored away at their tests, volunteers in the grading room feverishly corrected the tests and totaled scores to determine the results. Meanwhile, others worked to total the donations, and compile a list of the donors. After determining the top scorers and acknowledgements, the volunteers rushed to update the Prezi presentation for the awards ceremony. For volunteers and participants alike, the tasks that they needed to complete were a race against time.

After a short break, parents, students, and teachers gathered in the MPR for the awards ceremony. The Awards Ceremony began with the acknowledgements and gift bags for University High School teachers, Mr. Huber and Mrs. Chang, who made the event possible with their help. The emcees also thanked Luz Loreto, who organized OCMC’s first Thanksgiving Tournament bake sale; the many people who donated at the event; and the volunteers whose hard work made the event a success.  Special volunteer acknowledgments were given to the tournament director, Jason Ye; the problem czar, Eric Xu; and other volunteers, including the emcees, head graders, head proctors, fundraising chiefs, and photographers. Finally, the presentation proceeded to the awards. Winners were awarded a variety of prizes, ranging from trophies of various sizes to buckets of candy.

At the end of the day, the Thanksgiving tournament was a unique experience for everyone. As Mr. Hubert, a math teacher at University High School and adult volunteer commented, “Any time [a student] gets to enter into any sort of competition, it increases the excitement [that subject] has for that particular subject- participating in these events makes math more fun and pushes them academically and allows them to potentially achieve higher.  For the volunteers, working at the Thanksgiving tournament was a chance to “learn leadership and write math problems at different levels,” according to Mrs. Chang, another math teacher from University High School and adult volunteer. Regardless of all the hard work put into organizing and participating in this event, the Thanksgiving Tournament was a great way to start of the holiday season for everyone.