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Central 8th grader Olivia White has qualified for the next level of competition in National Geographic’s annual GeoBee.

By Pam Reinig
Register Editor

It’s not unusual for Olivia White to stop mid-paragraph when reading a novel and turn to a map to locate a village or country mentioned in her book. Neither is it unusual for her to research the traditions and lifestyles of people she’s reading about.

“Did you know there are people who drink curdled horse milk?” she asked. “I read about it so I checked it out just to be sure. Yup, there are people in Central Asia who really like that sort of thing.

A bright, articulate and engaging 8th grader at Central Middle School, Olivia’s vast knowledge of all things related to geography is paying off. She and her parents, Bernie and Melodie White of Volga, recently learned that Olivia is a semi-finalist in the National Geographic GeoBee competition, which will be held at the University of Northern Iowa on March 29.

A GeoBee is like a spelling bee but instead of spelling words participants identify landmarks, rivers and oceans, cities, and even wildlife indigenous to specific areas.

Olivia advanced to the next round of competition by winning the school title and taking an online qualifying test.

National Geographic magazine gets credit for launching Olivia’s interest in geography. When she initially subscribed a few years ago, she received a large wall map, which she has placed on a bedroom wall. She got the same map as a “thank you” for re-subscribing, which couldn’t have pleased her more.

“It’s printed front and back so now I can see both sides,” she explained.

Olivia, who spent her last summer vacation study Norse mythology “for fun,” admits to being both nervous and confident about the upcoming competition.

“I’m nervous because there will be so many people there but confident because I’ve done well on the school tests,” she said.

You might think that a girl who’s traveled so many places in her mind would have difficulty zeroing in on the one spot she’d most like to visit. Not Olivia. When asked, she answered without hesitation.

“I’d like to go to China,” she said. “I have a friend there and she’s told me so much about the place she’s lives that I’d really like to see it.”

This is the 31st year of the National Geographic GeoBee competition. Prize money has been increased for all state GeoBees champions. Whoever wins at the March 29 event will receive a medal, $1,000 in cash, and other prizes, as well as a trip to Washington, D.C., to represent their state in the National Championship where they will compete for cash awards and college scholarships. In 2019, the national champion will receive a $25,000 college scholarship, $1,000 in cash, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society, and an all-expenses-paid Lindblad expedition to the Galápagos Islands aboard the National Geographic Endeavour ll; second place will receive at $10,000 college scholarship and $1,000 in cash; third place will receive a $5,000 college scholarship and $1,000 in cash; and seven runners-up will receive $1,000 in cash each.

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