Vocabulary.com celebrated the first-place finish of Houston's Chavez High School in the 2014-2015 Vocabulary Bowl with a special ceremony on Friday, May 15. Students, teachers, and staff were presented with the Vocabulary Bowl trophy, medals for the top 100 students, and a special proclamation from the Texas State Senate commemorating the students’ impressive achievement.

The 100 Chavez students who mastered the most words were honored with medals.

Special guests included Houston Astros pitcher Collin McHugh and ABC13 news reporter and anchor Elissa Rivas. Along with Chavez principal Rene Sanchez, Rivas and McHugh spoke to the 500 students, teachers, and guests in attendance about the powerful and meaningful impact that words have had on their own lives, congratulating the students for building a culture of competition around word-learning. 

Rivas, who emceed the event, told the story of how, as a child, she would watch the evening news with her mother, dictionary on hand to learn unfamiliar words. Now, she said, her life has come full circle and she is delivering the news, using those words that were so mysterious to her as a child. She also spoke about how improving her vocabulary led her to improve her SAT scores and earn a college scholarship.

ABC13 News anchor Elissa Rivas was the emcee for the event.

McHugh, who presented the trophy to the top three Chavez students, described the awe he felt at his father's inspiring use of words in sermons and his sister's precision with language in her songwriting. Now, he is publicly refusing to be the "dumb jock in the family" through a commitment to read a book a month, keep up a personal blog, and host #UnleashMyCreative on Instagram.

Houston Astros starting pitcher Collin McHugh addressed the students.

Sanchez spoke about the importance of words in shaping the stories we tell about our lives, while invoking the spirit of community that had led Chavez to victory. During the year of dedicated word learning at Chavez, teachers across different curricula had encouraged their students to take part in the competition, building school pride and fostering a culture of learning. The school held special vocabulary events attended by hundreds of students, including one to commemorate César Chavez Day on March 31, during which students gathered to learn words from civil rights vocabulary lists.

The special proclamation from the Texas State Senate lauding Chavez's success was presented by Patricia Harrington from the Houston Mayor's office. Also speaking at the event were Chavez teachers Cristina Saldarelli and Sherri Huggins.

Chavez top 10 students finishers by words mastered are: Jose R. (2685 words), Richer P. (1556 words), Travaurus S. (1466 words), Devonte P. (1364 words), Lizett L. (1339 words), Brian H. (1325 words), K. V. (1311 words), Genesis M. (1247 words), Sergio V. (1166 words), and Juan O. (1080 words).

Collin McHugh presented the trophy to the top 3 students: Jose R., Richer P., and Travaurus S.

Later in the afternoon, Vocabulary.com Director of Curriculum Development Georgia Scurletis conferred a banner on students at nearby Bellaire High School, also in the Houston Independent School District, to celebrate their impressive third-place finish. "It was a privilege to celebrate the students and teachers who have taken the concept of adaptive vocabulary learning and created a school-wide culture that makes word learning competitive and fun," Scurletis said.

The first annual Vocabulary Bowl was a huge success, as demonstrated by the tremendous amount of participation from students at schools across North America:

  • Total students participating: 204,499
  • Total schools participating: 16,369
  • Total words mastered: 5,587,148
  • Students participated from all 50 states in the U.S., Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and 9 Canadian provinces

The start of the 2015-2016 Vocabulary Bowl is just around the corner and promises to be even bigger and better! Visit the Vocabulary Bowl page to find out how your school can join in the competitive fun.