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Students Excel at Beta Competition, Proud to ‘Work as a Team’

Matthews Charter Academy students competed in the national Beta Competition in Savannah, Georgia, against hundreds of schools and over 8,000 attendees. The team garnered one first-place finish and a total of four top 10s in different events.

Beta Club is a nonprofit organization that focuses on developing leadership qualities in today’s youth. It recognizes high academic achievement, promotes character and social responsibility, and encourages service involvement to school and community.

Matthew's students at Beta

“In order to qualify for nationals, our team members needed to place in the top five for their state convention that was held in January,” Fourth Grade Teacher Marissa Guarno said. “This past January, we had 25 of our MCA scholars compete in statewide Beta Club competitions in Greensboro, North Carolina. The North Carolina Beta Club Competitions had over 100 schools competing with 5,000 attendees. Out of those schools, Matthews Charter Academy placed in the top five for 17 competitions, which moved on to compete at the national level in Savannah, Georgia.”

Matthews was led by a first-place effort for the Meeting of the Minds group of Christian Kassahun, Jorgia Henke, Bellevie Huang, and Brayden Millmore. The group was given an on-site prompt that required critical and creative thinking to develop a reasonable plan and product. Teams were required to collaboratively engage in higher-level cognitive abilities such as abstract reasoning, and problem solving. In the middle of the on-site challenge, scholars were given a task to enhance the original design.

Matthew's students at Beta

“All 70 of the teams were given an equal number of straws and an equal amount of tape,” Huang said. “Then we were simply told that we had 60 minutes to build a tower. We decided to build a pyramid because we were coached to think outside the box. We knew everybody was going to build a rectangular structure. We wanted to be different and stand out. We decided to build a pyramid like the Egyptians. This gave Jorgia the great idea to have 4 layers to our pyramid to represent the four pillars of Beta [Leadership, Achievement, Character, and Service.]”

After 30 minutes students were given an additional requirement: the towers would need to support an individual playing card and a Matchbox car. That prompted quick decision making by the team.

Matthew's students at Beta

“We just went into go mode,” Henke said. “We decided that Christian would continue to build the tower while the rest of us brainstormed how to build a platform for the car and card.”

Their quick-thinking paid off. Their structure held the card and toy car for over 30 minutes, while other competitors struggled to get their structures to hold the additional weight at all.

Matthew's students at Beta

“We attached a lot of the straws in the shape of triangles because we learned during one of our practices that triangles are considered to be one of the strongest shapes for building structures,” Huang said.

Matthews Fifth-grader Iheoma Okoroiwu took seventh place in the Nation for Poetry category, where students were given the prompt “A Journey into a Dream,” and were encouraged to use a variety of literary devices along with creative and descriptive language. She had 60 minutes to create her poem and was only able to use a dictionary and thesaurus as references. (Read Okoroiwu’s poem at the bottom of the page)

Matthew's students at Beta

Fifth-grader Jaylenn Carbonaro took ninth place in the Nation for Recyclable Art category, where the theme was “A Voyage of Adventure.”

The team of Iheoma Okoroiwu Suraj Patel, Ai Linh Tran, Taryn Barham, Jaylenn Carbonaro also took home a ninth-place finish at nationals in the Nation for Elementary Engineering category. Scholars had to bring materials from an approved Beta list to Nationals and were told to create a zipline on site.

Matthew's students at Beta

Guarno credited the dedication of the entire Matthews Charter Academy community, including administration, faculty, board members, parents, and especially Matthews Special Ed Teacher Kati Carbonaro to the success of the team.

“One of Beta's mottos is our favorite phrase, ‘WE over ME,’" Guarno said. “Our club really lives this motto out. So many scholars set aside their pride and poured everything they had into helping other scholars train for their competitions. Jorgia Henke even voluntarily gave up her Spelling Bee spot at Nationals so the Meeting of the Minds team could have the 4 required members that they needed. If that isn't the best example of, ‘WE over ME’, then I don't know what is!”

Congratulations on the impressive accomplishments, Matthews Beta Team!

Fifth-grader Iheoma Okoroiwu’s poem:

Title: An Astonishing Town

I closed my eyes
Ready to begin
I hoped to learn
With a wonderful grin

I ran to the woods
So quiet, so calm
But my foot ruined it all
With a nice great fall

I got up to look
How nice is Mother Teresa
To let me see
The breathtaking trees

I sprinted farther
And deep, deep down
I knew I was going
To a wonderful town

I stumbled upon a bird
Next to a gigantic lake
But that bird could eat a snake!
And kick a boulder!

I followed the bird
To a secret, but open place
And what I saw
Put a bewildered shock on my face

Everything, everybody
All moving in all directions
Everything, everybody
Having somewhere to go

Like a festival
I never thought I would see it
Like a movie scene
I never believed it

I saw people skipping
Trying to catch their food
In a hopeful mood
But couldn't even find a plate to use

I kept walking to see
A lone woman who was sitting
On a jiggling rope
For she had no hope

I helped her get up
And invited her to join
She would see how much fun
It is to run

She followed me inside
This astonishing town
I could see her eyes glow
Wishing to now go

She joined in with the fun
And she regretted not coming
She loved it here
It was the best place ever

This astonishing town
Everyone else needs to come
This astonishing town
The whole world needs to know

I opened my eyes
Aw! Back to the real world
But I know I learned something
On this voyage of happiness

Always help others
Because on this voyage
She didn't have courage
To persevere through
But I helped
And she loved it there too

List of Winners and Placement from JANUARY'S STATE CONVENTION:
1. Taryn Barham 5th Grade Science - First place
2. Dorian Cordice 4th Grade Science - First place
3. Brayden Millmore 4th Grade Math - Third Place
4. Taryn Barham, Bellevie Huang, & Ai Linh Tran: Book Battle - First place
5. Elizabeth Lupton 4th Grade Social Studies - Second Place
6. Nadia Brady: Creative Writing - Fourth place
7. Iheoma Okoroiwu: Poetry - Third Place
8. Suraj Patel, Ai Linh Tran, Taryn Barham, & Bellevie Huang: Quiz Bowl - First Place
9. Maclaren Porter, Molly Manley, Lailah Wilson, & Brayden Millmore: Musicology - First Place
10. Lailah Wilson: Speech - Fourth Place
11. Nadia Brady: Digitial Art - Third Place
12. Jaylenn Carbonaro: Recycled Art - Third Place
13. Jorgia Henke: Spelling Bee - Fifth Place
14. Elizabeth Lupton: Accessorized Design - Fourth Place
15. Jaylenn Carbonaro, Suraj Patel, Ai Linh Tran, & Bellevie Huang: Engineering - First Place
16. Bellevie Huang: Solo Dance Performance - Third Place & Golden Ticket 
17. Om Patel, Ethan Gerrard, Logon Polson, Carter Jenkins, Amir Nasri: Engineering Middle School - 5th Place 

Exhibitions entered in Savannah that did not need qualifications at States:
18. Meeting of the Minds: Jorgia Henke, Brayden Millmore, Bellevie Huang, Christian Kassahun
19. Reimagine-Recreate-Recycle: Elizabeth Lupton, Kennia Foster, Molly Manley

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About Matthews Charter Academy
Matthews Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Matthews, North Carolina, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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