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Odyssey teams can go to Michigan
Richmond Hill High's Odyssey of the Mind teams are (back, left to right) Coordinator Steven Wilkie, Kevin Lewis, Evan Thompson, Lauren Trivitayakhun, Taurean Butler, Matt Cordle and Alex Reid Middle Row: (left to right) Brian Farr, Chiara Norce, Kendra Schneider, Tanzie Nelson, Alex Squires, Adam Uhlig and "Tag ‘Em" Team parent coach Debbie Squires Front Row: (left to right): Laura Black, Lesley Chesnut, Ginny Freeman, Shannon Wichers and Matt Baker - photo by Luke Hearn

Three Odyssey of the Mind teams from Richmond Hill High School have earned the right to participate in the organization’s world finals at Michigan State University, and their advisers and school officials say they’re going to go.

"These kids have earned the right to go," said Steven Wilkie, coordinator of the school’s Odyssey program. "They’re not just representing the school but they’re representing the State of Georgia."

School Superintendent Sallie Brewer said she’s proud of the teams and said the group’s trip to the world competition will not come before the school board for approval because it’s not sponsored by the school.

"It’s not a school-sponsored trip," Brewer said. "Their parents are taking them and they can certainly do that."

Brewer said the Odyssey of the Mind trip differs from the school board’s refusal to let the band travel to Washington, D.C. late last year because the Odyssey trip does not require school equipment and personnel like the band trip would have.

"With the band, there would have been school staff and school instruments involved," Brewer said. "This one doesn’t come to the board. Their parents are taking them and they can certainly do that."

On Saturday, April 21, three teams from Richmond Hill High School competed against teams from across Georgia at the state competition held at Columbus State University. Out of 106 teams, only nine advanced to the world finals, which will be held May 23-26.

At the state level, RHHS teams "Tag ‘Em" and "I’m Only Thinking of You" earned first place honors. Team "The Large and Small of It" came in second place but still qualified for the world competition. There are five problem-solving categories total; RHHS students will compete in three of them along with 800 other schools from 39 states and 24 countries.

RHHS Principal Charles Spann said he’s proud of the students and their accomplishments.

"First of all they’re a class act. They’ve certainly done something never done in this school before," he said. "They’re an outstanding group of young people that have really made us proud."

Fourteen students on three teams and two parent coaches will head to the world finals to compete for the world championship. Members of the teams say they’re really excited.

"I’m anticipating a win," said "I’m Only Thinking of You" team member Alex Reid. "And we’ll have a lot of fun. Everyone will be having so much fun…that it won’t be so competitive because of all the fun we’re having."

Victoria Townley of "The Long and Short of It" said she’s looking forward to seeing how other teams solve the problems they’re given.

"They give you a problem with the basic limits and you can see what others do within those confines," she said.

Debbie Squires, the parent coach of "I’m Only Thinking of You" and who was inducted into the Georgia Odyssey of the Mind Coaches Hall of Fame, said the groups plan to form a Venture Crew under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America. As a Venture Crew, the Odyssey teams will still be a school organization but will operate with the liability insurance provided by the Boy Scouts of America.

Squires has been working with the Odyssey of the Mind program since 1995 and said she’s enjoyed every minute of it.

"These kids are the greatest and everyone should be so lucky and honored to work with such a great group," she said. "It’s a lot of fun."

Since the school cannot provide funding for the group’s trip to Michigan to participate in the world finals, Squires said the group members have started brainstorming ways to raise the over $15,000 to send the 14 members and two parent coaches to the competition. All money raised so far this year has been done by the groups themselves.

"One idea we hope to do very soon is to have the three teams do a show with their performances and take donations. We’re now looking for a venue." she said. "We’ve also opened an account at Bryan Bank and Trust for donations."

According to their web site, Odyssey of the Mind is an international program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students in elementary, middle and high schools, as well as at the college level. Students compete in competitions using their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretations of literary classics. It always involves two portions, one long-term problem teams work on starting at the beginning of the school year and then a spontaneous problem to solve once they arrive at the competition.

Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so at Bryan Bank and Trust under Richmond Hill High School Odyssey of the Mind Team c/o Debbie Squires. Squires can be contacted at 727-3690 for more information.

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