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May-21-2007 17:15printcomments

Eugene, Oregon Student Wins AAA Travel Challenge

The AAA Travel High School Challenge tests students’ knowledge of U.S. and world geography with a focus on travel and tourism.

aaa travel winner
Samuel Brandt, a 10th grade student at South Eugene High School in Eugene, Ore. holds a $20,000 prize after winning the AAA High School Travel Challenge.
Photo: Business Wire

(ORLANDO, Fla.) - Samuel Brandt, a 10th grade student at South Eugene High School in Eugene, Ore. used his considerable geography “smarts” on Monday – triumphing over an initial field of nearly 25,000 students – to earn a $20,000 college scholarship and the title of 2007 AAA Travel High School Challenge Champion.

In its fifth year, the AAA Travel High School Challenge has already awarded more than $600,000 in scholarships and prizes.

The AAA Travel High School Challenge tests students’ knowledge of U.S. and world geography with a focus on travel and tourism.

Brandt won over a highly competitive field of students, correctly answering the following question during a nerve-wracking, single-elimination competition on stage at Universal Studios: ”Dubrovnik is a popular tourist destination in which country?” Answer: Croatia.

“Samuel should be very proud of his exceptional knowledge of travel and geography,” said Sandra Hughes, AAA Travel’s Vice President of Travel Services. “He answered extremely tough questions, and came out on top of literally thousands of talented students. The AAA Travel High School Challenge is proud to highlight and reward the hard work of Samuel and others like him.”

Winners from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia earned an expense-paid trip for two to Orlando for the contest’s national finals by placing among the top five scorers in their state in an online exam, then besting the other state finalists on a 40-question, written and proctored exam.

Once in Florida, all 51 students took another written, proctored exam to identify the top 24 semi-finalists.

Yeshwanth Kandimalla of Alpharetta, Georgia took home second-place honors and a $10,000 scholarship; and a four-way tie for third place, splitting a $10,000 scholarship, was awarded to Dan Auerbach of Northbrook, Illinois, Stephen Kirkpatrick of Mukilteo, Washington, Dallas Simons of Nashville, Tennessee, and Neeraj Sirdeshmukh of Nashua, New Hampshire.

The AAA Travel High School Challenge aims to expose students to the importance of travel and geographic literacy and encourage them to consider careers in the travel and tourism industry.

The contest comes at a time of discouraging statistics regarding geographic knowledge and the need for increased employment in the travel and tourism sector.

According to a survey commissioned on behalf of the AAA Travel High School Challenge, only 2 percent of American high school students could identify the home state of Biloxi one year after it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and only two-thirds (67 percent) could not identify Paris as the city they’d need to visit in order to tour the Louvre.

Additionally, the Travel Industry Association of America and U.S. Department of Labor project the fast-growing hospitality industry will need an increase in employment of 17 percent by 2014, and the meeting and convention planning business will see an 18-24 percent increase.

AAA also added a travel-specific scholarship to the mix this year, wherein top-scoring students interested in travel careers were invited to submit an essay for both a state and national competition to win a portion of $56,000 in scholarships designated for travel-specific programs.

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