Go ahead - ask NandiStewart a question about black history. After weeks of cramming for a crucial contest, the Spelman College senior probably has the answer.
In fact, Stewart, 21, knows so many facts about black history - as well as African-American pop culture and entertainment - that she recently used that knowledge to capture a $5,000 scholarship. She did it by beating out other contestants on the Seventh Annual Ford Black College Quiz Show, a Jeopardy-like game the pitted gifted students from 12 historically black colleges and universities against each other.
Stewart’s winning contest was filmed in Atlanta last November on the Spelman campus and recently aired on WUPA in Atlanta. But before then, Stewart, a history major who plans to teach with AmeriCorps after her May graduation, had never heard of the contest.
“I was invited to participate by a professor in the history department, and I thought it sounded like a cool thing to do,” said Stewart. “I was given a study guide of about 800 pages, and for four weeks before the show, all I did was cram. My friends and I wrote out flash cards, and they quizzed me every day, sometimes for hours.”
For the first round of competition, Stewart passed a test that put her into one of four groups. She wound up vying with 11 other students from across the country for the top honors, which she took by beating out students from Hampton University and Coppin State in Baltimore.
“I didn’t know that I won until I saw the people watching who told me I had the highest score,” she said. “I just gave more correct answers.”
Stewart managed the win after a rocky start.
“The most anxiety I had came from the buzzer,” she said. “Even though they explained it five million times, I could not get it to work in the first round. But once I figured out the coordination, I was fine. I don’t know what I expected, but not being able to work the buzzer wasn’t it!”
Stewart and her classmates watched the showdown when it aired locally, which offered another unusual experience, she said. “It was weird to see myself on TV, and I realized I actually got more questions wrong than I thought.”
Along with the intense preparation, the support of her friends made the difference, Stewart said.
“My friends thought it was best thing in the world, and I think they were more excited than I was to do it,” she said. “I know without them, I would not have won. The whole thing was very cool.”
Every other Wednesday, H.M. Cauley brings you positive stories from our community. To suggest a story idea, e-mail email@example.com.