Two sisters, one in the eighth grade at Jack Robey Junior High School and the other in the fifth grade at Oak Park Elementary School, were overall winners in their respective divisions Thursday night at the Pine Bluff School District's annual Knowledge Bowl for students in the fourth through ninth grades.

Two sisters, one in the eighth grade at Jack Robey Junior High School and the other in the fifth grade at Oak Park Elementary School, were overall winners in their respective divisions Thursday night at the Pine Bluff School District’s annual Knowledge Bowl for students in the fourth through ninth grades.

The event, held in the auditorium of the Arkansas River Education Service Cooperative, fielded two representatives and two alternates from each of the PBSD’s five elementary schools, two middle schools and Jack Robey.

Both Sha’nee Hulsey, who won the combined middle school/junior high competition, and her sister Kalifa Hulsey, who took the top prize in the elementary division, are interested in math and science, with the older sibling hoping to become an algebra teacher and the younger wanting to be an educator in the sciences.

The proud parents of the Hulsey girls are father Rodney Hulsey and mother Joyce Hulsey.

“I’m very proud of them,” Rodney Hulsey said. “They are very committed academically to doing well. They teach others. It is about learning and giving and teaching. We read to them from an early age and did other educational things with them.”

Rodney Hulsey laughed and said that he and his wife would spell out words they didn’t want the girls to understand when they were little but to no avail.

“They ended up reading what we were spelling and they knew what we were saying anyway,” Hulsey said.

Joyce Hulsey shares her husband’s pride in their daughter’s achievements.

“First of all, I thank God,” Joyce Hulsey said. “I’m very proud of my children. They are achievers. They just love to learn. After school I ask them how their day went. We listen to our children. We as parents have to keep our children encouraged and work with them. As parents my husband and I work with our children.”

Rodney Hulsey’s brother Willie Wilson Jr. said keeping the girls focused is a family effort.

“We tell them that the world is changing and that technology and math are important,” Wilson said. “It is important that we change with the world. We always preach it to them.”

Oak Park Elementary principal Beverly Jones said the achievement of Kalifa Hulsey is the establishment of a trend begun last year.

“This is the second year in a row that one of my students has won the Knowledge Bowl,” Jones said. “I am so very proud. She has that inner drive to succeed. She’s an example of what Oak Park Elementary is achieving.”

Student achievement

Freddie Jolivette, coordinator of the PBSD Title I Parent and Family Resource Center, said all student participants in the Knowledge Bowl, which began at the individual school level, were receiving medallions for their participation.

“Each school had north and south teams and the winners from each school plus two alternates are participating in the event tonight,” Jolivette said just before the start of the event. “We also invited all of the parents to be here as well. The Knowledge Bowl allows them to have educational interactions with their parents and gives them an opportunity to learn about historical figures in Arkansas and across the nation.”

Twenty questions

The Bowl was moderated by Pine Bluff High School art instructor Virginia Hymes, who had an obviously good time asking a series of 20 questions to each group of students.

“I am here for the kids,” Hymes said about her participation. “They have my heart.”

The subject of the vast majority of the questions asked to the students was notable black Americans from the national, state and local level.

“Who was the first African-American Secretary of State?” Hymes asked. “Colin Powell,” a student answered.

“Who was the first African-American major league baseball player?’ Hymes asked. “Jackie Robinson,” a student replied.

Hymes stood at a lectern at the front of the room while each group of students and their parents sat at a long table adjacent to the lectern.

Each team sat in front of an electronic buzzer that they were to press in order to answer a question.

Many of the students buzzed in to give their answer before Hymes was even able to finish a question.

“Wow, you guys are good!” Hymes said. “You go on, young lady!” Hymes said at another point.

Hymes kept the pace moving and motivated the young people through her words.

The elementary competition consisted of three preliminary rounds, with a winner chosen from each round, followed by each of the three preliminary winners competing for an overall winner.

The combined middle school and junior high school competition consisted of two preliminary rounds followed by the two preliminary round winners competing for an overall winner.

School board perspective

PBSD Board of Directors secretary Leon Jones Sr. was pleased with the efforts of all of the student participants.

“I feel great about the Knowledge Bowl,” Jones said. “It is a good activity for kids and it provides them with a road map for success. This gives them a forum to excel in all areas of life.”