Twenty-six Mecca Elementary School pupils recently participated in the Fourth Annual National Geographic GeoBee at the school with the hopes of obtaining the first-place prize to complete in the State GeoBee.

The winner of the State competition is then sent to the National GeoBee in Washington, D.C. with a chance to win a $25,000 college scholarship, $1,000 cash, and a trip to the Galapagos Islands; second place has a chance to win a $10,000 college scholarship and $1000 cash; third place has a chance to win a $5,000 college scholarship and $1,000 cash; and seven runners-up will each receive $1,000 cash.

As part of the local Read With Me Volunteer program, in 2016, Jim Lucchasi worked with principal, Gracie Avalos, to start a National Geographic GeoBee contest.  Now the tradition continues with Jim’s wife, Arlene Lucchasi, and Ron Harris; along with vice principal Lizeth Rivera who coordinates the event.  The Read With Me volunteers spend weeks beforehand teaching fourth, fifth and six graders geography lessons based on Alexander Graham Bell’s definition: “Our planet and everything in it.”

During the GeoBee, students participate in a preliminary round that consists of seven rounds of questions. The scores are tallied with nine students remaining who get a shot to move on to the final round with three students left in the running. They move into the championship round and the one remaining 2019 GeoBee champion for Mecca Elementary School is crowned.

“The Mecca Elementary students are all winners for having participated in the GeoBee program as it materially increased their exposure and knowledge of World Geography,” Arlene Lucchesi said in a prepared statement. “All participants receive certificates of participation and the top three finishers receiving special certificates. The champion receives a medallion from the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., and a World Globe trophy.”

Read With Me Volunteer Programs began in 2004 by Roberta and Clay Klein who were told by the Coachella Valley Unified School District that their schools needed English speaking role models to help students improve their English language skills. The programs are an intergenerational-intercultural program focused on English language acquisition for children in elementary school.  It is all about volunteers sharing their gift of fluency and focusing on helping children develop to their maximum potential.

Final Round:

Fourth Graders: Melanie Briseno, Mathew Valdez

Fifth Grader: Jose Benavidez

Sixth Graders: Ivan Castillo, Roxana Ojeda, Christopher Palomares, Alberto Ruiz, Armando Cervantes, Yasmin Vicente

Championship Round:

Armando Cervantes, Christopher Palomares & Roxana Ojeda


Christopher Palomares

Second Place

Roxana Ojeda

Third Place

Armando Cervantes

For more information click here.

Photo caption: From left to right adults: Arlene Lucchesi, Jim Lucchesi and Ron Harris with Mecca Elementary students who participated in the National Geographic GeoBee (Photo courtesy of Lizeth Rivera-Elana Alonzo.)