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Christian Hakim is a rare 11-year old.
While most of his peers have little interest in anything that doesn't involve a joy stick and a video game console, Hakim has always found one unique activity interesting.
He likes to look at maps.
“I always have, ever since I was young,” said Hakim, about his interest in maps. “I just like them, and have liked them more as I have gotten older.”
There is little doubt that interest in maps has aided Hakim in his knowledge of world geography, and it was those skills that were on display last month when he won the St. Bridget Geography Bee, besting all of his fellow competitors.
“It was really exciting,” said Hakim, of his experience in the competition. “I really enjoyed it. The questions were hard, but I had a lot of fun.”
This wasn't Hakim's first go-around in the Bee. Two years ago, while in the fourth grade, Hakim showed age wasn't a factor when he won the competition, beating out peers much older than he. Having that experience helped him this time around, the youngster admitted.
“I wasn't as nervous as I was the last time,” he explained. “It definitely helped that I was in it before.”
The competition takes place over a period of rounds, with more and more contestants eliminated as the answers get tougher and the questions more complex. Each grade level, four through eight, produces two finalists who battle one another to move on to the final round, where the best two competitors square off for victory.
There, the students are asked to answer three championship questions, and the one who answers the most correctly wins.
For the final question, Hakim was asked to name the African country in which the Lighthouse of Alexandria was located. It was the kind of question that was common in the competition, one that required both a sense of geography and history.
Luckily for Hakim, he had remembered a powerpoint presentation made during his class that spoke about the Lighthouse of Alexandria, considered one of the original seven wonders of the world, and knew it had been built in Egypt.
“I remembered we studied it in social studies,” he recalled.
Hakim explained that, for many of the answers, he had to use some deductive reasoning to come to an answer. He might not have known the answer outright, but could figure it out by listening for hints within the question.
While he was a previous champion, Hakim didn't take a victory for granted. In fact, he admitted he was surprised when he won.
“It was great,” he said. “I wasn't expecting it.”
There was little time for him to savor his win, however, as immediately following the St. Bridget School competition, Hakim sat down to take a statewide exam. The test will determine whether Hakim gets the opportunity to continue on and compete at a Connecticut competition, open to all students in the state.
The exam, Hakim acknowledged, was tough, but he is confident he did well.
“I hope I get the chance to go to (the state competition),” he said. “I am very excited to see how I did.”
It will take a few more weeks for Hakim to learn whether he will continue on for a shot at even greater geography bee accolades, but, for now, he can savor his championship, for which he received a medal honoring the accomplishment.
“I had a lot of fun and I'm glad I won,” he said.
In addition to Hakim, the following students were recognized as finalists from their grade levels: Carolyn Marchak and Alexandra Hakim, 4th Grade; Maia Jakubowski and Eamon Fitzpatrick, 5th Grade; Samantha Hekeler, 6th Grade; Daniel Herlihy and Andrew Cammisa, 7th Grade; and Brody Griffin and Gina Guarnieri, 8th Grade.