WASHINGTON (May 7, 2007)–The Illinois winner hopes to become a sports broadcaster and call Sunday Night Football. The New Hampshire champ wants to win an Olympic gold medal for swimming. The South Dakota victor has set his sights on exploring Mars one day, and the Florida champ hopes to have his own architectural firm and design and build skyscrapers. But all the state-level geographic bee winners have one immediate, common goal — to take top honors at the 19th annual National Geographic Bee, to be held in Washington, D.C., on May 22 and 23.
Fifty-five fifth- to eighth-graders, ranging in age from 10 to 14, will take part in the competition, vying for the first prize of a $25,000 college scholarship and lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society. Second and third prizes are college scholarships of $15,000 and $10,000. The sponsor of this year’s competition is JPMorgan Chase.
The Bee finalists have triumphed over a field of nearly 5 million students to win their state-level competitions and earn a place in the national championships. They represent the 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Pacific Territories and Department of Defense Dependents Schools.
The preliminary rounds of the National Geographic Bee will take place on Tuesday, May 22. The top 10 finalists will each win $500 and advance to the final round on Wednesday, May 23, moderated by Alex Trebek, host of the television quiz show “Jeopardy!”
Wednesday morning’s final round will air nationally at 5 p.m. (ET) that day on the National Geographic Channel. Produced by National Geographic Television, the finals also will be broadcast on public television stations nationally. Check nationalgeographic.com/geographicbee or local listings for viewing times.
Ten students taking part in this year’s National Geographic Bee are repeat state winners, one of whom is competing for the third time. Benjamin Geyer represented the District of Columbia in 2005 and 2006. Other repeat winners from 2006 are Andrew Lee of Alaska; José de la Peña of Colorado, who represented Virginia last year; Suneil Iyer of Kansas; Hannah Goodman of Missouri, who represented Montana last year; Michael Ling of Oregon; Francisco Vargas of Puerto Rico; Mark Arildsen of Tennessee; Jiawei Li of Texas; and Caitlin Snaring of Washington.
A survey of this year’s state and territory Bee winners shows that they have numerous talents in addition to their prodigious knowledge of geography. Many are on their school’s honor rolls and in the National Junior Honor Society; many have won math, science and spelling contests; some play several musical instruments and are members of orchestras. Most play a variety of sports.
When the students were asked who they most admire (apart from their parents), the highest number of votes went to people in the military, teachers and Al Gore for his work to combat global warming. While the majority of the kids said they were perfectly content being themselves, Bill Gates topped the list of other people they might choose to be.
The National Geographic Society developed the National Geographic Bee in 1989 in response to concern about the lack of geographic knowledge among young people in the United States. And the problem is not yet resolved: The results of the National Geographic-Roper Public Affairs 2006 Geographic Literacy Study showed that Americans aged 18 to 24 still have limited understanding of the world within and beyond their country’s borders. Even after Hurricane Katrina, one-third could not locate Louisiana and almost half could not locate Mississippi on a U.S. map. Only four out of 10 were able to find Iraq on a map of the Middle East.
“For young people to be responsible and informed leaders of tomorrow, it is imperative that they have a sound understanding of our planet,” said National Geographic Society President John Fahey. “National Geographic has always recognized the need for geographic literacy and will vigorously continue its efforts to educate young people, empowering them to be informed citizens and inspiring them to care about the planet.”
Kimberly Davis, president of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, said, “As economic and current events underscore the importance of understanding world cultures, JPMorgan Chase believes education is essential to creating both an understanding of world cultures and communities where people can live, learn and thrive.”
The 2006 National Geographic Bee champion was Bonny Jain, a 12-year-old eighth-grader from Moline, Ill. The winning question was: “Name the mountains that extend across much of Wales, from the Irish Sea to the Bristol Channel.” Answer: Cambrian Mountains.
About National Geographic
The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society works to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 350 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and four other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; radio programs; films; books; DVDs; maps; and interactive media. National Geographic has funded more than 8,000 scientific research projects and supports an education program combating geographic illiteracy. For more information, visit nationalgeographic.com.
About National Geographic Channel
Based at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., the National Geographic Channel (NGC) is a joint venture between National Geographic Ventures and Fox Cable Networks. Launched in January 2001, NGC initially earned some of the fastest distribution growth in the history of cable and more recently the fastest ratings growth in television. The network celebrated its fifth anniversary January 2006 with the launch of NGC HD, which provides the spectacular imagery that National Geographic is known for in stunning high-definition. NGC has carriage with all of the nation’s major cable and satellite television providers, making it currently available to 64 million homes. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com/channel.
About JPMorgan Chase
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $1.4 trillion and operations in more than 50 countries. The firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and businesses, financial transaction processing, asset and wealth management and private equity. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, JPMorgan Chase has its corporate headquarters in New York and its U.S. consumer and commercial banking headquarters in Chicago. Under the JPMorgan, Chase and Bank One brands, the firm serves millions of consumers in the United States and many of the world’s most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients. More information is available at www.jpmorganchase.com.
NOTE: The names and pictures of the top three winners and the winning question will be posted in the National Geographic online press room at nationalgeographic.com/pressroom on Wednesday, May 23.