Blue Jay of the Month: Senior Kevin Yokum has the answers, even when they’re in the form of a question
From The Blue Jay, Vol. 86, No. 5, April 2014
By Quinn Stiller
For Kevin Yokum, games are anything but child’s play. As captain of Prep Quiz Bowl, Yokum has led the team to its fifth straight state championship this year – he’s been a member of the varsity team for three of those championships. He’s also a member of the Academic Games team.
And a few years ago, he scored big on one of America’s best-known games, television’s top quiz show, “Jeopardy.”
This well-rounded Blue Jay, however, also is fully engaged in life at Jesuit. On the academic side, he’s president of the National Honor Society, and serves on the executive boards of both Mu Alpha Theta and the Classics Society. On the field, he joins in intramural sports. His spiritual life includes participation in Student Ministry and the Sodality. His talents extend to music, where he has played the piano for 12 years and has even begun composing original music.
The Blue Jay caught up with the busy senior to talk about his life here at Jesuit and beyond.
The Blue Jay: What’s your greatest achievement?
Kevin Yokum: Becoming an Eagle Scout was pretty big for me because it was the culmination of years of work in the Boy Scouts. I also received the Archdiocese of New Orleans Outstanding Youth Award last year for my involvement in my CYO, so that was a big moment. Finally, being able to be a part of three consecutive State Championship Quiz Bowl teams has been pretty awesome.
TBJ: What three factors have contributed to your academic success?
KY: Well, Mr. McGannon always told us that all we needed were eyes, a pencil, and a brain. But I don’t think that’s all. If I had to pick three things, I would probably say: I pay attention in class (for the most part); I put in the effort to study and do my work; and I try to manage my time well so that I can finish the easy work quickly and then spend more time understanding and practicing the harder stuff.
TBJ: What’s your favorite subject?
KY: That’s a tough one. Probably a three-way tie between Social Studies, Latin, and Greek. Social Studies because I have just always been a big fan of social studies. Latin and Greek because usually those are smaller classes with great teachers, so they are a lot of fun. In addition, we also get to translate some great stories in Latin and Greek classes.
TBJ: What has been your favorite moment at Jesuit?
KY: Greek III End of the Year Party. Greek III class was the fourth class that Mr. Acy taught us in a span of two years. He taught both Latin and Greek to us in sophomore and junior years. He was pretty tired of our class by that point, so we threw him a giant party at the end of the year. I will never forget it. We had streamers, party hats, noisemakers, giant balloons, a unicorn piñata, a mariachi band, an “It’s a boy” sign, and a giant check for the amount of money we had left over in the party fund that we had collected. It was an epic event. And kudos to Mr. Acy for surviving those two years.
TBJ: What about a favorite individual class and teacher?
KY: Mr. Wright’s Calculus BC class. It was just a great, although intense, experience. He makes sure to call you out on all your stupid mistakes, but then helps you correct them so that you understand the concept. He yelled at us the entire year for worrying about grades because “numbers don’t matter” in his class. In addition, he’s pretty eccentric, so that keeps it interesting; plus, I learned a lot – even though he claims that he isn’t a teacher.
TBJ: Where are you considering going to college?
KY: Right now it looks like the University of Notre Dame. I want to go out of state to a place that has opportunities for research and study abroad, and Notre Dame is a pretty popular school in my family. Plus, I have a scholarship offer at Notre Dame; so that’s probably the biggest incentive.
TBJ: What has Jesuit meant to you?
KY: Jesuit has given me a chance to participate in so many great extracurricular activities and to become friends with so many great students and teachers. In addition, I have been very fortunate to attend World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011 and in Rio de Janeiro in 2013, two experiences that were phenomenal both culturally (although I still don’t know Portuguese) and spiritually. Those opportunities wouldn’t have been possible anywhere else.
TBJ: Speaking of spirituality, do you have a favorite saint and a favorite prayer?
KY: I don’t really have a favorite saint, but a few that I like are St. Augustine, St. Ignatius, and St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Ignatius’ Prayer for Generosity is a prayer that I always try to keep in mind as a reminder to search for ways in which I can serve others.
TBJ: How do you manage being involved in so many extracurriculars and academics?
KY: A lot of it involves prioritizing all my different activities. I try to get schoolwork done as quickly as possible so that I have time to participate in extracurricular activities. Often I have multiple things on the same day, so then it comes down to figuring out which activity is more important to me. Generally my family is at the top of my priorities list, and then it goes down from there.
TBJ: What are your plans for the summer?
KY: This summer I hope to have an enjoyable few months before college. I already have plans to go camping in Georgia, whitewater rafting in Idaho, and touring Denali National Park in Alaska. So pretty busy, but hopefully a lot of fun.
TBJ: Going back a few years, tell us about your experience on “Jeopardy.”
KY: It was pretty awesome. Just getting on the show is difficult, with tests to take and interviews to prepare for and perform; so I felt very fortunate just to get on and compete on the show. On the day of the taping, I was on the last show to be taped that day, so I had a lot of time to sit around and relax. The only problem was that I was wearing shoes that were a bit too small, so I ended the day with bruises on my feet.
When it was finally time for my show, I had to get all set up with microphones and coached on which cameras to look into at different times. Then it was time to play.
Most of the game went by without anything interesting happening. The hardest part of it was being able to buzz in at the right time. If you try to buzz in too early, you get locked out for a fraction of a second, which can make a big difference in the game. Going into the final question, I was in second place. Because the category was “U.S. Presidents,” which I felt I knew pretty well, I decided to bet pretty much all of my money. Needless to say, it worked out; and I won the game.
Afterwards, I finally got to change out of those shoes. My family and I then went out for a celebratory dinner. I am a huge fan of going out for dinner!
Overall, it was a great experience; and it also gives me a good story to tell for years to come.
TBJ: As an inspirational Blue Jay and motivation for others, do you have any advice for your fellow students?
KY: Get involved. There are so many extracurricular activities at Jesuit that you should be able to find at least one that fits your interests. If not, make your own club. Don’t just come to Jesuit for class.