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Top 3 Advance to State Citizen Bee : ‘Nuclear Winter’ Helps Student Win $500 in Contest

Times Staff Writer

Name the phenomenon described in the following: smoke and dust that is generated by a large-scale nuclear war and can block sunlight from reaching the Earth.

If you answered “nuclear winter,” you are correct. So was Grant Featherston, a senior from Palmdale High School whose answer earned him first place and $500 Saturday in the San Fernando Valley region of the first California Citizen Bee contest.

“Basically I know about stuff like that, so it was an easy question,” said Featherston, who plans to become a computer engineer. “But I’ll have to study up for the state contest.”

Sponsored by The Times and the Close Up Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting civic education, Saturday’s regional in Mission Hills was one of 10 held throughout Southern California.

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The regionals, which drew 234 students from 86 area schools, were designed to test high school students’ knowledge of subjects ranging from American history to current events.

The top three students in each region will participate in the state competition in Los Angeles on April 22. The top three winners in the state will go in June on an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, where they will vie for thousands of dollars worth of college scholarships in the national competition.

Preparation for the contest began in the fall when Columbia Savings & Loan underwrote the registration cost for each school. Teachers then received training and materials, including newspapers delivered daily to the classroom.

Garrett Swaisgood, a senior at Saugus High School who won second place and $300 in the Valley region, came close to coming in first but forgot the name of the South American country--Paraguay--that made headlines last month when its dictator, Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, was overthrown after nearly 35 years. But Swaisgood said he isn’t discouraged.

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“It’s a great program because you learn stuff you never even hear about in other books,” said Swaisgood, who plans to study political science.

Stephanus Philip, a junior at Chaminade College Preparatory in West Hills, won third place and $200 in the Valley region.

In the regional held in Thousand Oaks for students from Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, William Buxton, a senior from Moorpark High School, captured first place and $500; Michael Kraft, a junior from Nordhoff High School in Ojai, won second place and $300, and J. P. Didier, also a senior at Nordhoff High, placed third, winning $200.


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