Sloane Kinney is smart. Not simply top-of-her-class smart, but in-the-running-to-win-a worldwide-competition-on-cleverness (despite being pitted against hordes of other teenagers from more than 65 differing countries) type smart.
The 13-year-old Carson Graham Secondary student has just been crowned top Junior Scholar at the London-held, global round of the World Scholar’s Cup, an academic, worldwide competition that hosts 50 regional events across 30 countries for up to 15,000 students.
Her team, comprising Kinney and two other students from the Lower Mainland, Verity Leung and Annika Begby, were also second place winners, qualifying them for the Cup’s Tournament of Champions event at Yale University in November.
Kinney is on a hot streak, but the big finale isn't in the bag just yet, she said.
With the competition split into four events – Scholar’s Bowl, Collaborative Writing, Scholar’s Challenge and Team Debate – there’s still much to battle it out in, and still much to learn.
The “big one” is the Scholars Challenge, she said, comprising a multiple choice test of 120 questions to be completed in an hour.
Questions cover art and music, literature and media, social studies, history, science and technology and a “special area” that changes from year to year. This year it’s expected to cover investigative journalism.
“It’s the part I’m the most worried about, because it’s worth the most points. It’s usually your ticket to either winning or losing the event,” said Kinney.
“Generally it’s just super scary, because it’s not subjective the way that the other ones are. You can write a short story and the judges can debate on it, but with this it is a machine grading it, not a person whose hearts and minds can potentially be persuaded.”
While Kinney might not be able to charm the hearts of the judges in every round, she does plan on winning over her fellow classmates. Building friendships, she said, is the most important part of the Scholar’s Cup experience.
“The studying parts of the event are not the most fun thing about the World Scholar’s Cup, the most fun thing is the community. Everybody there is the reason I keep coming back.”
Kinney said she has met “so many amazing friends” through the competition, and now has close ties with other brainiacs across the world, calling fellow competitors from the likes of Montreal, Tel Aviv, and Dubai close friends.
Kinney’s mom Sarah Dodd said the Cup gives participants the opportunity to be around other “curious, bright students” in a place where they can pursue their academic interests or love of learning.
“Her dad and I just love seeing her participate with like-minded kids from all over the world who are similar in that academic respect, to watch her make friends in that way, that’s the absolute best thing for us,” she said.
As far as academic interest is concerned, Kinney assures she is in the competition only “for the fun” and hasn’t yet pondered what her own education will entail after leaving Carson Graham.
That said, she does have a few ideas on how she would like to put her brain to use in the real world. Forensics is a top contender – “I’m really interested in the secrets of DNA and genetic engineering right now” – and, if that doesn’t work out, there’s always creative writing, she said.
“I would really like to be a novelist.”
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.