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Matt Chase wins Maine geography bee

posted Apr 9, 2015, 4:25 AM by Michael Richards

Wells Junior High School eighth grade student Matt Chase won the state level of the 27th Annual National Geography Bee at the University of Maine at Farmington on March 27th.   He becomes the first ever WJHS student to achieve this milestone. 

Despite all the pressure one might expect associated with a contest of this nature, Chase, who was diagnosed with autism at age two, answered the challenging questions posed to him about world geography and emerged victorious over 100 other 4th through 8th grade students. 

As a result, Chase, age 13, will represent the State of Maine in national competition with 53 others beginning May 11th in Washington D.C.  He will be accompanied there by his parents Sophie and Matthew L. Chase.  

According to a press release from the Maine Geography Bee, the "National Geographic Society, Plum Creek and Google generously support this event nationwide, and will be sending parents and contestants to Washington for the competition."

Teachers Bonnie Dill and Susie Dugovic witnessed Chase’s win at UMF.   Dill put her former student’s victory in proper perspective by pointing out the significance of it. According to Dill there are four million students who take part at the local school level of this contest leaving just 5,000 to enter state competition.  From state rounds across the United States, only 54 get to compete in Washington.  The student who emerges victorious there will receive a $50,000 college scholarship and a free trip to the Galapagos Islands.

“Matt is a very special young man…”commented Dill who, along with Social Studies teacher Susan Dugovic, have coordinated the WJHS Geography Bees for over two decades.    “It was one of the greatest moments ever to see him win,” commented Dill.  “We are so proud of him.”

Supporting and cheering Matt on with his interest in Geography have been his father and mother and sister Anya. According to Sophie Chase her son has enjoyed working with and creating maps from a very young age inspired further by Dill to develop what Mrs. Chase describes as “a more comprehensive sense of the world, including the people, their customs and history”.  

To the Chases their son’s autism makes this big win all the more special.  “As a parent of a child with autism, it is common to have a never ending feeling of worry,” commented Sophie Chase who describes her child’s memory for facts and dates as impressive.  “Thanks to our son's very hard work and an amazing team of educators and therapists (in the WOCSD and at Spurwink Therapeutic Preschool) over the years, he has come an incredibly long way.”             

At the winner’s ceremony on March 27th, Chase was awarded $100, a current edition “National Geographic World Atlas,” a CD collection of every issue of the magazine ever printed, and a special offer from UMF.  President of the University of Maine at Farmington Kate Foster offered Chase a letter of admission to the University of Maine at Farmington upon graduation from high school.  

Matt’s parents hope that their son’s State and local wins in the contest will inspire other parents of children afflicted with autism.  “We want to share that exciting prospect with every parent who has a child on ‘the Spectrum’, commented Sophie Chase.  “The reality is that our son is so unique, brilliant, happy and caring; we feel like the luckiest parents in the world.”

Once in Washington, D.C., the Chases will attend opening ceremonies and special events put on by the National Geographic Society including a boat cruise, and the preliminary competition to determine the top ten.  The finals will be televised and hosted by Soledad O’Brien. The National Geographic Bee is sponsored by the National Geographic Society in Washington.    The Society provides participating schools with questions, supplies, rules, guidelines and prizes.  

In addition to this contest win, Matt and his family have recently learned that he placed first in the eighth grade category in the 2015 WOCSD Literary Achievement Awards writing contest.  


Matt Chase celebrating his win
Appearing to hold up the World is Matt Chase at the State Geography Bee at the University of Maine at Farmington


Ms. Dill and Matt Chase
Matt Chase with WJHS Social Studies teacher and Geography Bee Coordinator Bonnie Dill in front of a very large wall map of the World at Wells Junior High School. 



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