The challenge of racing the clock to field a blitz of academic questions isn’t for everyone. But 16-year-old Apurva Kanneganti has long dreamed of participating in the Jeopardy! game show.
Now the Germantown High School senior has a chance to be part of the show. This week, she enters the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament, competing against 14 other teens from across the country who will vie for the $100,000 prize. The tournament is being taped in Washington, D.C. mid-April, and will air September 12-23.
“I think I have a pretty good shot,” she says. “Knowledge Bowl tournaments at school have given me a strong base.”
Apurva's graduation photo from Germantown's IB program
To qualify, Apurva, Germantown's valedictorian, had to ace an online test of 50 questions and impress in an interview. About 3,000 students took the test. The teen first auditioned for the show as a high school freshman. “The interview intimidated me because the kids were older, and I didn’t show off my skills. As a senior, I had one last chance.”
As captain of her Knowledge Bowl team, she performs well in history, literature, and geography. To prepare for questions in topics like sports, she has learned names of Heisman Trophy winners. Any other weak spot? “I’m not too good at the ‘80s band category,” she says, grinning. “Luckily, on Teen Jeopardy! they’ll ask us about One Direction and current pop culture.”
The teen receives $5,000 for qualifying to compete on the show. If she wins the top prize, she’ll have to keep that secret until the program airs in September. By then, she'll be joining the Class of 2020 at Harvard University. The star academic made perfect scores on the ACT and SAT and is a National Merit Finalist. “I’ve always liked to read — that’s where I’ve gotten lots of my knowledge.” After skipping first grade, she was reading Shakespeare and Charles Dickens by fourth grade.
Her parents will join her for the taping in the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall. Her mother, Dr. Thirumala-Devi Kanneganti, is an immunology researcher at St. Jude Children’s Hospital and her father, Sanjeev Kanneganti, works for the hospital’s human resources department. At Harvard, Apurva plans to study molecular and cellular biology.
After the competition, she'll craft her valedictorian speech, striving for inspiration, “I want my speech to touch everyone. It’s a tall order because Germantown High is so diverse with people from all backgrounds going to do different things. Still, I want everyone to gain something from it.”
From all indications, she'll reach her goal. We wish Apurva the best of luck.