2 county 12-year-olds compete on Kids Week of ‘Jeopardy!’ – By Elizabeth Fitzsimons, UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

October 12th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

Something these two 12-year-olds have in common is that, in class, their arms are the first to shoot up when their teachers ask a question. (more…)

Something these two 12-year-olds have in common is that, in class, their arms are the first to shoot up when their teachers ask a question.

But the teacher doesn’t always call on the students who consistently have their hands in the air.

It’s different on television and with a buzzer under their thumbs. This week, millions of people across the country are seeing how fast and smart two San Diego seventh-graders are. Both are appearing on the quiz show “Jeopardy!” during its Kids Week.

Bethlehem Lema of Mira Mesa was on last night’s show. Elijah Granet, who lives in Carmel Valley, is on tonight.

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Contestant Bethlehem Lema, 12, is a seventh-grader at Wangenheim Middle School in Mira Mesa. “When you’re up there (on ‘Jeopardy!’), the time goes by really quickly,” she said.
[ Watch Her Video ]

“It was surreal the whole time,” Elijah said.

“Omigosh, I’m on the actual ‘Jeopardy!’ set. I’m holding the actual ‘Jeopardy!’ buzzer!” Elijah remembered thinking as he stood on the boxes the show’s crew puts behind the podiums so its younger, shorter contestants can see host Alex Trebek and the clues on the screen.

“When you’re up there, the time goes by really quickly,” Bethlehem said. “It’s like you’re up there, the lights are on and then you’re done.”

Neither Bethlehem nor Elijah will say how well they fared, citing rules of the show. But both are wise beyond their years, each possessing smarts, confidence and talents outside academics.

Bethlehem is a figure skater and a member of the Junior Model United Nations at Wangenheim Middle School in Mira Mesa. Elijah plays hockey and soccer and is considering starting a Harry Potter club at La Jolla Country Day School.

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Kid Week contestant Elijah Granet, 12, is a seventh-grader at La Jolla Country Day School.

Bethlehem’s father, Lema Tadesse, is a chemist and researcher; her mother, Yeshi Lemma, is a nurse. Bethlehem has a younger brother, Jeremiah.

Elijah’s parents are David Granet, a pediatric ophthalmologist, and Lisa Granet, an advertising copywriter. He has two younger brothers: Isaiah, 7, and Ezra, 7 months.

Bethlehem and Elijah are seasoned “Jeopardy!” fans. Bethlehem figures she’s been watching since she was about 5. Elijah started two years ago, during a visit with his grandmother on Long Island, New York.

“When I saw it, I was like: I could totally do this,” Elijah said.

“There’s nothing else that tests with such speed. It is probably one of the hardest shows out there.”

The two were among 10,000 youth who took online tests that winnowed the candidates to 3,000. From there, 250 were picked for auditions in Los Angeles, with 15 invited to be contestants on the show.

Bethlehem and Elijah, who did not know each other before the show, took similar pains to prepare for it.

Each read up on past champions for tips. Elijah read a book by Ken Jennings, who holds the record for the longest winning streak on the show. Elijah also took some of Jennings’ advice to heart: Brush up on presidents and capital cities.

Bethlehem kept reading her encyclopedias and added some trivia books to the menu. Her strong subject is history, and she hit a home run.

“They gave us a portrait of a French empress, Marie Antoinette. I’ve been wanting to say that name aloud for a long time because it’s really pretty,” Bethlehem said.

“And I got to say it in front of millions of people.”

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