The Davidson Academy places fifth at national WorldQuest competition

Fifth-place finish marks new best for Nevada's Academic WorldQuest team

Reception at the United States Institute of Peace, who sponsored this year's national Academic WorldQuest competition. From left to right: Josh Bahn, Alexander Alvarado, Jason Scharoun, Nikesh Mishra and Bella Noonen.


5/18/2018 | By: Lauren Bain | Ricky  Thomas Jr. |

The Davidson Academy placed fifth at the 16th annual Academic WorldQuest National Competition at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., last month. After winning the regional competition in February, the Davidson team advanced to the national competition along with 45 other high school teams.

Teams consist of four students each, who are tested on their knowledge of international relations, current events and foreign policy issues. The competition is based on 10 topics with 10 questions for each topic. The 2018 topics included: NAFTA, ASEAN at 50, India's Bid for Global Power, Combating Climate Change, Cybersecurity, Saudi Arabia, Great Decisions, The Peacebuilding Toolkit, America's Diplomats and Current Events.

Bella Noonan is a graduating senior at the Davidson Academy and participated in the national competition for the first time this year.

"We arrived at the competition optimistic but not expecting a high placement," she said. "We ended up pleasantly surprised when we closed the competition just a few points off of the podium, which would be the best-ever performance for a northern Nevada team at nationals!"

Noonen formed the first Academic WorldQuest team for Davidson her freshman year along with other classmates and support from the Northern Nevada International Center and the University's Honors Program. Although that first year they would not qualify for nationals, the experience inspired her to become the inaugural president of the school's World Affairs Club, which would become their platform for organizing and participating in events like WorldQuest.

"As someone who was at the time just discovering a personal interest in history and politics, Academic WorldQuest's goal of introducing high schoolers to issues in international relations proved instantly engaging," she said.

Setting the Bar Higher

The valiant effort from Davidson resulted in a fifth-place finish - beating the previous high from last year's McQueen High School who placed 10th place and raising the bar for northern Nevada.

"To be affiliated with Academic WorldQuest in Nevada for 11 years now and see a Nevada team do as well as they did was absolutely amazing," Northern Nevada Academic WorldQuest Coordinator Daniel Villanueva said. "I was excited for McQueen's finish at 10th last year and now seeing how close Davidson Academy was to the top three only creates more excitement for me."

The day prior, the team had a chance to study and sightsee before going to a reception hosted by the national competition's partner, this year, the U.S. Institute of Peace, where teams were able to talk directly with some of the people working on the complex international relations and issues the teams studied for the contest.

"I couldn't be happier that I not only met my goal of attending the national competition but exceeded my expectations in helping to set a record for Northern Nevada's performance," Noonen said.

World of Opportunities through WorldQuest

Since 2014, 15 students who have taken part in WorldQuest have enrolled in the University's Honors Program.

"As I look forward to graduating high school, WorldQuest has proven the catalyst for my choosing to study political science at the University," Noonen said.

With help from co-sponsors, recruitment of high-quality students interested in international affairs can occur. There currently is an opening for a program co-sponsor to further student's opportunities. If interested, contact Villanueva at


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