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Venice High School Wins Graphic Arts Competition

Venice High School sophomore Leo Martinez starts slowly but finishes strong in annual competition and keeps a streak alive.

Venice High School started out slowly Wednesday night at "The Academic Challenge," an annual competition featuring high school graphic arts students from all over Southern California.

Venice representative Leo Martinez, a 15-year-old sophomore, said he learned over the weekend that Venice has won the Jeopardy-style competition every third year and it was up to him to keep the streak alive.

"If I didn't win this year, I would have been so ashamed if I broke the tradition," Martinez said. "The pressure increased 10 times. I'm so relieved I didn't break the tradition."

Martinez got off to an inauspicious start at the competition held at El Tamayo Restaurant when he rang in on the first question without knowing the answer, forgot the question and lost a quick 300 points. He started the second round with zero points and afterward said that he told himself that if he was going to lose it would be with "honor" and he wouldn't finish last.

"I pushed myself harder and harder and suddenly I was in third, then second and then in first place," Martinez said.

The final category of "Quality Control" petrified him, so Martinez said he wagered to finish second and was pleasantly surprised to find out he had the right answer and had wagered enough to win.

Art Lindauer, a longtime teacher at Venice High School's Super Shop 9 graphic arts department, said his students have been competing in "The Academic Challenge" since 1998 and took first place in 2000, 2003, 2006 and 2009.

Lindauer said he didn't say anything about the streak in 2009 or this year, but Martinez researched old newsletters and found out about the streak.

"Leo says he wants to break tradition, because he's only a sophomore, and he can actually come back and compete two more times. He said he wants to take it for the next two years. so we'll win three years in a row. So we'll see what happens," Lindauer said.

Lindauer was among the thousands of teachers statewide who received layoff notices in March as the state continues to deal with budget shortfalls. He said Wednesday night that he hasn't heard that his layoff notice has been rescinded, so competitions like this keep the graphic arts program in the limelight and shows the community the good work being done at the shop.

Venice's Super Shop 9 recently held an open house attended by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to showcase it's state-of-the-art printing facility that was recently bolstered by a $3 million grant from the state and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Professionals in the printing industry attended the Wednesday event and Venice's success in the competition will help students find jobs, Lindauer said.

Ara Izquierdo, an event coordinator with the Printing Industries Association Inc. of Southern California, said the competition was exciting.

"These kids are so smart and they were able to answer questions perfectly well," Izquierdo said. "I believe it has a lot to do with the teachers. These teachers are amazing."

Izquierdo said that she saw Martinez in a corner studying for the competition while everyone else was enjoying a buffet meal at El Tamayo.

"I asked him if he was going to eat and he said that he needed to study," Izquierdo said.

Venice High School was followed by South Pasadena High School, Canoga Park High School, El Camino Real High School and Hart High School.

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