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Worthington Christian School eighth-grader named one of 100 semifinalists in state geography bee

Lydia Kahsay points to Ehiopia on a globe Thursday morning in Worthington Christian School. The 14-year-old credits periodic trips to the African country to instilling a level of curiosity that earned her a trip to the 2019 Minnesota National GeoBee. (Alyssa Sobotka / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — At a very young age, Lydia Kahsay learned to love to travel.

It makes sense, as the 14-year-old has made periodic trips to Ethiopia and Eritrea, Africa to visit family since she was barely old enough to remember. She says that exploration has instilled in her a natural level of curiosity about the world.

It’s also earned the Worthington Christian School eighth-grader a prestigious spot in the 2019 National Geographic GeoBee Minnesota State Competition, which will take place March 29 at the University of Minnesota.

“I was surprised,” Kahsay said about learning she ranks among the top 100 grades four through eight world geography students across the state. “I was excited, too, and kind of nervous to see what happens next.”

The majority of semifinalists are from the metro area, with the next closest semifinalist from the area being Daniel Kleven, an eighth-grader at Westbrook-Walnut Grove.

As someone who has always loved geography, Kahsay said it’s an honor to qualify as a semifinalist in the state geography bee.

“And I thank the lord for giving me this opportunity,” she added.

Even though the state competition has yet to occur, Kahsay has already proven herself to be proficient in the subject by faring well during two qualifying competitions.  

Deemed the top scorer among a competition amongst her peers Jan. 25 at WCS, Kahsay advanced to take an online geography test with 70 questions. Placing within the top 100 test-takers advanced her to the state, level where she’ll face a tough competition for a chance to represent the state at the national championship. The winner of the state championship will receive a medal and a $1,000 cash prize. Second and third place will receive $300 and $100 cash awards, respectively.

Kahsay says her parents, Zufan and Negusse Kahsay, her uncle and Christy Milbrath — a WCS geography teacher and science teacher that Kahsay admires — will be in attendance to support her.

Milbrath said Khasay is very dedicated to all her studies, and approaches each thing she does with both seriousness and enthusiasm.

“Any time she has the chance to go above and beyond, she does,” Milbrath said.

And it shows, as she makes a personal decision to learn more about the world in her own time. The world is a big place, but she uses a stepped approach like focusing on capitals or highest mountain ranges.

“Ever since I was a young girl I loved traveling and experiencing different cultures and how everyone is connected,” she said. “Everything about (the world) is just so beautiful.”

Could her love for geography translate to a future career someday? The verdict is still out, but it’s being kicked around together with her potential desire to one day work with kids or become a doctor.