Members of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Honda Campus All-Star Challenge team pose for a photo at Honda’s corporate campus in Torrance, California. From left: Kailey Wilson, Princaya Sanders, Dr. Kawanda McCarthy-Williams, April Wright, Witchell Laurier, Destenie Barnaby, and UMES Public Relations Director, Earl Holland, Jr.

It’s been said that Disneyland is known as the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

But from earlier this spring, there was a destination 30 miles west exuding joy for the giddiest of those with a penchant for testing their trivia knowledge.

The Honda Campus All-Star Challenge hosted its National Championship Tournament in Torrance, California, featuring students from 32 Historically Black Colleges and Universities competing in a game involving quick buzzer fingers and quicker recall.

UMES’s delegation consisted of freshman Destenie Barnaby, sophomores Princaya Sanders and Kailey Wilson, and senior Witchell Laurier. Coaching the team was public relations director Earl Holland Jr., School of Pharmacy & Health Professions Assistant Dean for Experiential Education, Dr. Kawanda McCarthy-Williams, and volunteer April Wright.

From left: Vice Provost Dr. Rondall Allen, UMES Honda Team member Destenie Barnaby, and Dr. Kawanda McCarthy-Williams, pose for a photo during lunch at the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge National Championship Tournament in Torrance, California.

“It was an incredible experience going to nationals,” Laurier, the team’s only graduating player said. “Even though we did not reach the goal we set for ourselves, being able to take the trip to California is something that I’ll never forget.”

In Round Robin play at the tournament, UMES faced a tough road against Spelman College, North Carolina Central University, and Prairie View A&M. Although they fell short of winning the tournament title and the $100,000 institutional grand prize, which was ultimately won by Alabama-based Oakwood College, UMES received a $6,500 grant from the Honda Motor Company.

Aside from the competition of the tournament, the event featured a celebration of 35 years of bringing together the nation’s best and brightest HBCUs.

The opening dinner featured video messages from political figures representing each of the states with institutions participating in the event. On the final night, there was a star-studded closing banquet that featured a red carpet for attendees to walk and a musical performance from singer and rapper Baby Tate.

Other activities for the students included a tour of the Honda Campus, which featured a tour of its research and development facility, and a trip to Disneyland.

Holland, who attended the NCT as a UMES student from 2001-05, said he’s happy to see the experience hasn’t changed 19 years since his last trip.

“I remember when we would mark our calendars at the start of the year for the NCT when it was held in Orlando, Florida, and how much we, as students, felt like celebrities once we got off the plane and arrived to the hotel,” he said. “Seeing the students being able to experience much of what I remember is exciting.”

When reflecting on his experience with the team, Laurier wished his involvement lasted longer than his one year of involvement.

“If I had the chance to go back in time to my freshman year, I would definitely be on the team because it’s an opportunity to show off your intellectual skills in a large environment,” he said. “I loved the practices, I loved the camaraderie, and I loved that we were able to gravitate together towards a common goal.”

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