This Hewlett High School senior from North Woodmere competed in the “Jeopardy!” teen tournament, served as a student host at Camp Snowball, plays the alto saxophone and flute and has a strong interest in political science — Who is Alec Fischthal?
Fischthal, 16, was one of 15 kids nationwide between the ages of 14 and 17, who were selected to compete in the quiz show where the answers are given first and the contestants supply the questions.
He took the online test in January, and out of the 30,000 teenagers who also took it, 5,000 went to New York City for the in-person audition on March 13. After another test, a mock game and an interview — only 15 teen contestants were selected.
The show was taped in the second week of April at Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. Fischthal and his fellow contestants were given a tour of the nation’s capital, while promotional footage and photographs were taken. “It was like nothing I’ve ever done before, but it was really cool,” he said.
On April 12, the quarterfinals of the teen tournament were taped with the semis and finals taped the following day. Since the show has yet to air, results cannot be disclosed, show officials said.
His first taste of academic competition came as an eighth-grader at Woodmere Middle School, where he placed second at the National History Bee in June 2013. After competing individually and with the help of Dr. David Rifkind, Fischthal’s freshman year social studies teacher at Hewlett High School and the school board, he organized a National History Bowl team at the high school.
Hewlett finished in first place out of 11 teams in the small school division of the junior varsity nationals in 2015 and in 2016, second place out of 21 teams in the small school division at the varsity nationals of the National History Bowl in Washington D.C. which took place the week after Fischthal’s Jeopardy! taping. “I missed a lot of school in April,” he said.
He is also active with the district’s community garden behind Hewlett House on East Rockaway Road across from the high school, and this school year will serve as president of the Youth Leadership Forum, a student group that concentrates on environmental sustainability and systems thinking, Rifkind said. “He’s such a genuine, heartfelt-kid,” he added.
His parents Steven and Icela Fischthal, call their son a “traveling scholar” and his itinerary this year also included being in Phoenix in May for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, for a week. In 2015, he served as a student host for Camp Snowball in Portland, Oregon. “I was giving speeches about systems thinking and about how we were doing it in our Hewlett community,” Fischthal said.
Camp Snowball is a five-day conference that took place in Sacramento this year and encourages high school students to take on leadership roles in their schools, enhances teachers’ daily practices in the classroom and creates relationships between learning communities and their local government leaders. Nine other Hewlett High students and Rifkind attended this year.
Fischthal enjoys golfing, playing tennis, the alto sax, which he has played since about third grade, and the flute. He aims to attend an Ivy League college and study political science, international relations and economics.
“One of nice things about all of the things Alec has been in is that the kids who participate all stay in touch,” Steven Fischthal said.