This year’s Massachusetts National Geographic Geography Bee Champion hails from Westford, and he was honored on Friday in a ceremony that celebrated his achievements and geography as a whole.
Stony Brook student Saketh Jonnalagadda will be heading to Washington D.C. for the National Geography Bee, but first he was surprised by his classmates, school officials and representatives of the Massachusetts Geographic Alliance to celebrate his victory.
Jonnalagadda, 14, said he spent seven hours a day during the summer to prepare for the state competition, held on April 1 at Elms College in Chicopee. When school started, he still spent as much time as he could studying geographic facts when he didn’t have homework. Still, he thinks the extra studying proved fruitful in school as well as during the contest.
“It certainly helped with history a lot because in history, a lot of geographical locations are mentioned,” he said. “I could understand events that happened in the places because I knew where they were.”
It’s still unclear what career path Jonnalagadda will take, Bridgewater State Geography Professor Vernon Domingo believes he has a bright future.
Domingo, a judge at this year’s competition, was on hand to give Jonnalagadda a plaque for his victory as well as a certificate making him an honorary member of the Massachusetts Geographic Alliance.
“He has a great future, whatever field he goes into,” said Domingo. “His ability to think spatially will help him wherever he goes, whether it’s architecture or medicine or whatever.”
After the ceremony, Domingo gave several Stony Brook students an impromptu geography lesson inside a 30-foot inflatable globe, one of only two in the country.
While Jonnalagadda will face much stiffer competition in Washington than he did at the state and local levels, he still believes a top ten finish or better is within the realm of possibility.
More information on the National Geography Bee can be found on the National Geographic website.