Are You Smarter than an Athens Grade-Schooler?

Watch some of Athens’ brightest elementary school students go head-to-head with adults in a battle of grade-school wits. All proceeds benefit Books for Keeps. Teams of adults will compete against teams of children from the schools we serve as we find out who really is smarter – and crown one winning team. The event will be emceed by UGA student Rance Nix. AYS event image for FB

Date: Saturday, March 22nd

Location: Holiday Inn Downtown Athens

Time: 6-8:30pm

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Click here to download a flyer for the event.


Meet the adult teams & donate in honor of your favorite!

All adult teams competing in Are You Smarter than an Athens Grade-Schooler? are being asked to fund-raise. Donate on behalf of a team and help them meet their goal! One team will be recognized for raising the most money – plus your dollars help us buy books for children in Athens – so every pledge matters! The children’s teams will be made up of students from four Athens public elementary schools: Alps Road Elementary, Fowler Drive Elementary, Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary, and Winterville Elementary.


The Bureaucrats     

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  • Suki Janssen – Waste Reduction Administrator for Athens-Clarke County, Georgia. Suki is a certified middle grades teacher, having taught seventh and eighth grade science in Cobb County for five years. She is married to Chris Janssen, a middle school math teacher in Oconee County, and lives with three dogs, two gerbils, two chinchillas, and six snakes. Suki loves to read non-fiction, especially about nature, travel, and Native American history.
  • John Mincemoyer – Administrative Secretary for the Athens-Clarke County Landfill. A 1994 graduate of the University of Georgia, a US Navy veteran (Submarines), and a published magazine writer, John—outside of his day-to-day job requirements—provides guided tours of the landfill for schoolchildren and adults of all ages. When not working, John enjoys playing chess, listening to music, reading, running, and volunteering with Books for Keeps.
  • Myla Neal – Recreation Administrator for Athens-Clarke Leisure Services. Myla has lived in Athens for almost nine years.  Some of her time with Leisure Services is spent working at the Neighborhood Community Centers overseeing programs, afterschool, and summer camp. In this role, Myla witnesses firsthand how literacy and reading skills are paramount to the success of the children she serves, and that reading is what opens the doors to life-long learning and discovery. Myla was an avid reader as a child and even wrote to her favorite author and got a letter back!
  • John McKinney – Memorial Park Facility Supervisor for Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services Department. John was born in Jacksonville and has lived throughout the state of Florida. He moved to Athens 13 years ago from West Palm Beach. John loves reading non-fiction, especially historical biographies and books related travel. Reading about the adventures of others always allowed him to escape his surroundings and learn about different cultures around the world.


St. Mary’s Emergency Team    


  • Josh Knott – Emergency Medicine Physician at St. Mary’s Hospital.  He has always enjoyed reading and credits his parents with promoting that interest in him as a child by taking him on regular outings to the public library.  Current book topics of interest include psychology, economics, and travel.
  • Neal Priest – Emergency physician at Saint Mary’s Hospital since the last Ice Age.  As both parents were teachers, he grew up in a household that cherished estimating, reading, critical thinking and music-making. He’s an environmental activist and vegan, ardent about changing lives and staving off the worst of global climate change. A third degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do — he also loves doing Yoga.
  • Catherine Hilliard – Emergency Room nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital. Outside of work, she enjoys playing sports, listening to music and reading. Growing up, her mother read books to her each night before bed. She attributes her continued love of reading to that. She enjoys all types of fiction, especially mysteries.
  • Knox Hilliard – Knox will be a newly graduating veterinarian this May, proudly having earned his second degree from The University of Georgia. Knox didn’t realize the enjoyment of reading until the age of 15, but has since embraced many works of American fiction, political biographies, sports novels, and nearly anything that John Grisham puts his name on. His elite eight favorite books of all time include: The Great Gatsby, The Natural, A Painted House, A Time To Kill, The Luckiest Man: A Lou Gehrig Biography, Moneyball, What It Means to be a Bulldog, and 3 Nights in August.
  • Ray Hoover – Emergency Room Nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital. Ray grew up with a love for reading. That love stood him in good stead during his service in the US Navy (Submarines) and beyond to his studies in Nursing School. Ray and his wife, Cynthia, are raising three beautiful daughters who have also “caught the reading bug,” and it’s not unusual to find the whole family sitting at home with the TV off and all their noses in books. His favorite inventions are the Nook and Kindle apps for his iPhone. They keep a book at his fingertips even when he’s shopping at the mall with his girls
  • Cynthia Hoover – Substitute Teacher in the Clarke County School District. She is married to Ray Hoover, and they have 3 fantastic daughters – all of whom are enthusiastic readers! Cynthia’s love of reading came very early due to her brilliant parents being such avid readers. Her mother even ran a monthly book club of intellectual ladies who studied and discussed a literary work every month – for fun! That sent quite a message to a little girl about the power of books! Cynthia feels that a love of books and reading is key to our children’s success in the world, and she is thrilled to be a part of this fundraiser.


The Bankers   

  • Jeff Bishop – Synovus Mortgage Corp., Athens First Bank & Trust.
  • Mark Papanicolous – Group Vice President for the National Bank of Georgia in Athens. Born in Athens and raised in Stone Mountain, Mark graduated from Clarkston High School in 1981. He received his BBA in Finance from UGA in 1985. Mark has two daughters, Alex and Paige, who are currently at The University of Georgia. Mark’s favorite authors are Elmore Leonard and Tom Clancy. He became convinced of the importance of literacy when his wife was pregnant with their first daughter, Alex. They read to both daughters nightly, and both young women graduated with honors in high school. He believes they are both on a path to achieve their goals in life largely due to how reading opened up their imaginations and stirred their creative spirits.
  • Joe Wyrick – Branch Manager at Robins Federal Credit Union. Joe is married to Jennifer Wyrick, and together they have a son and a daughter in Clarke County schools. In Joe’s spare time, he plays guitar and sings in his church choir.  Joe loves to read science fiction and fantasy novels, and he enjoys reading biographies about famous musicians.


Athletes and Coaches’ Team  

  • Jon Ward – Athletic Director at Clarke Central High School.  He enjoys reading, especially non-fictional history. He credits his mother with stressing the importance of reading to him as a child.  One of his favorite authors is David McCullough.
  • Brian Alvarez – “Doctor” to all phones and computers, upper-level technical guru with Apple and former college and professional soccer player. Brian played college soccer at Clemson University and Young Harris College, and graduated from UGA with bachelor’s degree in psychology. He also played professional soccer for a season in England. Brian will be an incoming first-year student at UGA Law in 2014.
  • Ginger Redwine Hurst – Contentment Foods marketing director and radio personality. Ginger is a native Athenian. She graduated from Clarke Central High School where she was a four-year cheerleader, and is currently serving on the board of the IT CAN BE DONE FOUNDATION. She attended Florida State University and graduated with a BA in French. Ginger currently plays tennis for the Athens Country Club and has won several league divisions and progressed to the state level. She currently living in Oconee County, is a mother of two VERY smart boys and works for Contentment Foods as the marketing director representing Bojangles restaurants in the local area. She is also a morning personality on WMOQ FM 92.3 morning madness show.
  • Aidan Sweeney – Sophomore on UGA Swim & Dive team. Aidan and his brother Conor grew up in Snellville, Georgia, with five other siblings. Aidan’s favorite author is J.K. Rowling and he loves the Harry Potter series. He learned to read from Hooked on Phonics – it definitely worked for him! He is an Italian major on a pre-med track. He loves football, computer games, and cars.
  • Conor Sweeney – Senior on UGA Swim & Dive team. Conor grew up, one of seven siblings, along with his brother Aidan in Snellville, Georgia. Conor’s favorite book is The Hobbit. He is also a lover of sports statistics, movies, and the board game Settlers of Catan. Conor is a risk management major.