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Quiz tourney winner fights Las Vegas stereotypes

In April, Clark High School senior-to-be Eshaan Vakil won first place in the history and geography categories of National Academic Quiz Tournaments’ Individual Player National Championship Tournament in Chicago and second place in the U.S. History Bee in Washington, D.C. His finish at the history bee was the highest ever by a Nevada student.

Vakil, 17, recalled riding a bus to a quiz bowl-related event with students from other states about four years earlier, when he was in seventh grade.

“They said, ‘Oh, we didn’t know people studied in Las Vegas,’” Vakil said. “The city was looked down upon in the academic world, and it was then I decided to help form the Alliance for Academic Quiz Bowl to help improve education in Nevada.”

The nonprofit alliance is dedicated to inspiring middle school students to achieve academic success through quiz bowl tournaments. Vakil said he tries to use games and other tactics to help incentivize learning and make facts and information easier to remember.

The foundation recently launched Coding and Quiz Bowl, a program for girls, set for this month at Hoggard Elementary School.

“Education is our future; kids are our future,” Vakil said. “I want Las Vegas to be at the forefront of technological innovation, and the best way to do that is through education. I want to close the gap by creating a love of learning.”

Robin Maglicco, math specialist at Hoggard and a former math instructor of Vakil’s, said Vakil came to her this school year and noticed few girls were participating in quiz bowl at the middle school level.

“He said, ‘I would like to change that,’” Maglicco said.

She agreed to help Vakil run the girls program, but she said he did all of the legwork, scheduling speakers, getting volunteers and deciding how the program would run.

“He is self-motivated; there are very few children that are self-motivated without parents pushing them the entire time,” Maglicco said.

Paul Villaluz, quiz bowl coach and co-founder of the Las Vegas Quiz Bowl Alliance, said he has known Vakil for three years. The alliance is a quiz bowl league.

“What makes him different is that he has an understanding of the facts and how they relate to each other,” Villaluz said. “He gets this from a thirst for knowledge and a work ethic that helps him identify his weaknesses.”

Vakil’s mother, Manodnya Vakil, said her biggest source of pride in her son is the fact that he’s a “giver.”

“I feel that the joy he receives from teaching little kids surpasses any wins,” she said.

Contact Rachel Spacek at 702-387-2921 or rspacek@reviewjournal.com. Follow @RachelSpacek on Twitter.

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