Pittsburgh teens win national African American History competition

From left to right: Michael Carlisle, Wayne Walters, Lucy Pearsall-Finch, Ronald Lawrence, Etana Laing, and Amil Cook (Courtesy of Pittsburgh Public Schools)

From left to right: Michael Carlisle, Wayne Walters, Lucy Pearsall-Finch, Ronald Lawrence, Etana Laing, and Amil Cook (Courtesy of Pittsburgh Public Schools)

Two Pittsburgh teenagers traveled to Atlanta, Georgia in mid-June to compete in 100 Black Men African American History Academic Challenge Bowl.

Etana Laing, 15, and Lucy Pearsall-Finch, 16, beat out teams from all over the country to be named the national high school champions.

Each young lady won $3,000 in scholarships and had an opportunity to fully engage in the 100 Black Men of America, Inc. 30th Annual Conference.

“Winning the national competition was fuel for achieving my goals, after winning the bowl I knew that my dreams weren’t far off,” said Laing.

In addition to the scholarship and saving bonds, the students were able to bring the “The 100 Cup” back to the 100 Black Men of Western Pennsylvania Inc.

“It is always exciting to see when our Western PA representatives win the African American History Bowl on the national level,” said

Dr. Wayne Walters, Director of Education and member of 100 Black Men of Western PA, Inc.

Both students are incoming juniors at Pittsburgh Obama in Highland Park, where Dr. Walters serves as the principal and Assistant Superintendent over 6-12 Pittsburgh Public Schools.

“These Obama students displayed the opportunities that await them when they invest in discipline and hard work. I am beyond proud of them! It is great news for our school, our district, our chapter, and city,” said Walters.

It’s been a long road for the pair, who have been studying since last year.  Their first stop was a local history challenge bowl, held each year in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, where the ladies won and qualified to compete in Atlanta.

After winning locally, Chapter Member Amil Cook began coaching Laing and Pearsall-Finch for final preparation of the national tournament.  The team read “Life Upon These Shores” by Henry Louis Gates Jr. at least once a week and studied with Cook via Google Hangouts.

Laing said in addition to parental support she studied in between classes, on field trips, and with Lucy frequently as they quizzed each other.

“Because of the competition I learned so much black history, and got a deeper knowledge of what I already knew.”

District students have been in this national spotlight before. A team from Pittsburgh Allderdice won in 2013 under the leadership of Jason Rivers.

‘We have been proud of the 21 year partnership with the Pittsburgh Public Schools in engaging middle and high schools in the district about learning more about African American history via competition,” said Walters.

Each year in February, the local 100 Black Men chapter holds a district wide competition, crowning a winner for both the middle and high school levels. This year’s regional middle school winners were from Pittsburgh Schiller; Katerina Bryant, Mekka Lloyd, Naomi Sakho, Rebekah Skweres, Ronnie Williams and Lana Shaftic (coach).

The 100 Black Men of Western PA, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization and one of the founding chapters of 100 Black Men of America, Inc.  In 1994, the national organization identified four program areas titled “Four for the Future” as critical to achieving the 100’s commitment to developing leaders and ensuring the future of African American communities and its youth. The four program areas are: Mentoring, Education, Health and Wellness and Economic Development.

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