By Malou Aguilar/AsianJournal.com
CONCORD, CA — A proud lola, Mrs. Cely Rayco Millena called last week to share the good news about her granddaughter Rachel Lee A. Millena. At 10 years old, Rachel bested other whiz kids in the game show Kids Jeopardy aired last October 9.
A sixth grader at St. Francis Catholic School in Concord, Rachel was selected among 10,000 registered kids from age 10-12 years old. The numbers went down to 3,000, then to 200 and finally to 15 contestants.
Her road to becoming a Kids Jeopardy winner started when she saw the Kids Week registration ad. Rachel asked her parents for permission to register and take the online test last March, wherein each participant had to answer each of the 30 questions in 10 seconds. In July, Rachel was informed that she was one of the 200 finalists selected for an audition.
Among 15 contestants, Rachel became the biggest winner of the week. In her face-off with the two contestants during the final round, she had won $16,000 already. Faced with the final Jeopardy question, “Name the only US president who never lived in Washington, DC,” Rachel bet $12,000. She answered ‘George Washington’ and walked away with $28,000.
Just another girl
Bubbly, precocious and friendly were the impressions that this reporter had after her phone and e-mail interview with Asian Journal.
“Rachel is just like any 10-year-old girl,” said her father, Engr. Millena. He is a principal train control engineer at BART Systems Engineering. “She loves her American Girl doll, and is an avid reader.”
Aside from reading, Rachel loves history, plays the piano and is a member of the Walnut Creek Girls Golf Club. She also acts in her school drama class. As a sister, she loves playing with her sibling, Rebecca Lee, who is 8. Although there are times that they disagree with each other, being an older sister, Rachel has learned to be more understanding. “Rachel loves being a big sister and enjoys sharing the spotlight with her sister,” her father explained.
There is no doubt that her youth is just one part of her. Her answers showed how smart and intelligent she is. Engr. Millena said that Rachel likes to take on challenges and gives it her best shot.
“She, of course, enjoys meeting and overcoming those challenges but more importantly, she learns from her mistakes when she falls short,” her father said proudly.
During the interview on the show, Rachel said, “It’s everybody’s game.” For someone who won over thousands of kids to get to the final round, she was admittedly still nervous being on TV and competing with other kids.
“You never know what questions will come up,” Rachel shared. “…And there were a lot of smart kids there,” she added.
She never thought that she would emerge as the Final Jeopardy winner. “I was hoping to just have fun, learn something new and make friends,” Rachel said.
The Millenas made trips to Los Angeles for the past three months for the audition. When they received the call late July from the contestant coordinator, they were informed that Rachel was of the 15 kids selected. She prepared for the competition in Los Angeles by reviewing geography, history, US presidents and literature.
Still a Filipino
Although Rachel and her sister were born in the US, their parents instill in them their Filipino roots. Rachel’s proud grandparents, arrived here in 1979 as special immigrants granted to her lolo, Rolando Millena. He worked for 21 years at the Ship Repair Facility at the Subic Bay Naval Shipyard in Olongapo City as Chief Metallurgist. Rachel’s father was only 13 years old when he arrived in the US with his four other siblings.
Engr. Millena believes that it is very important to instill faith and humility in their daughters’ lives. He and his wife, Lea, a full-time mother and housewife, agree that without their own parents’ diligent efforts and dedication to provide them with the proper moral values and faith in God, there will not a be a moral compass to guide them. They also immerse their children in the traditions and culture of Filipinos. Being Bicolanos, they also participate in the Penafrancia Fiesta held in San Leandro every year.
“Of course, the ‘mano po’ blessing we greet our elders is one of the little things we have taught our girls,” said Engr. Millena.
Rachel and her sister visited the Philippines for the first time in July last year. Engr. Millena believed that it was an eye-opening experience for both.
“It’s one thing to be able to tell the girls stories from our own experiences when we lived there,” he said . “It is so much more when they actually see, feel, smell and live it there.”
Both girls enjoyed the experience so much. Aside from the sights, beautiful beaches, fresh fruits and wildlife, Rachel also had to chance to see her best friend, Gianna, who recently moved back to the Philippines.
After all the excitement, Rachel is busy with school and her extra curricular activities. She looks forward to her future — either as a novelist, concert pianist, photojournalist, or reporter. As for her $28,000 prize, most of it will be saved for her college fund and to buy a new laptop computer — a pink one. (www.asianjournal.com)