Quade Kelly dresses up as Albert Einstein in this photo. Courtesy photo

For 10 months, Encinitas resident Quade Kelly devoted his life to learning about the history of the world. Quade, who just completed fifth grade at PCA Inspire Family of Schools, saw his hard work pay off when he was named the champion of the inaugural “The Who Was? History Bee,” a nationwide competition hosted by authors and brothers Jeff and Patrick Kinney.

Quade competed against more than 25,000 students across 49 states after winning classroom and school-level competitions. Competition organizers initially planned to have a final test for 10 finalists but the live event was canceled due to the pandemic. Organizers opted to name the 10 finalists — including Quade — as winners.

“Being named the first ‘The Who Was? History Bee’ champion is exhilarating,” said Quade, who noted his hero is Mother Theresa. “It means that I have an opportunity to share what I have learned and earned with hard work.”

Quade is talking a lot of work too. He said he read nearly 200 of the “Who Was?” book series to prepare for the competition, learning about everyone from Aretha Franklin to Anne Frank. In fact, he even met Frank’s step-sister, Eva Schloss, who told him that “We are all links in a chain. As long as we share our stories, we continue on.”

“I love history because I learned that we are all links in the big chain of life,” Quade said. “Everyone is important, everyone is special. If even one link breaks, our chain is not as strong. We can look back and see the broken links to understand what we really need to fix and how everyone needs to work together to be strong.”

Quade’s personal chain of support included his family, his teachers and local librarians, who all helped him prepare for the competition.

“For me, seeing Quade win this competition is the whole point of being a teacher,” said Lynn Thornton, who has been teaching for 17 years. “When I see a student like Quade continue on his quest for learning, I know I have accomplished my small part in a student’s life. Students like Quade make me proud and thankful that I chose to go into teaching.”

So, what was Quade’s favorite part about the competition? Sharing the joy with others. He donated $500 of his prize to United Through Reading.

“I am happiest when I get to share something that helps others,” Quade said. “It is also wonderful to be a co-winner with the other finalists. It can be stressful to be the first at something, but to share that with others is really special.”

Now that the competition is over, Quade is working on his ballgame. He said he hopes to make the USA baseball team. He also applied to join the Kids Press Corps.

“I am going to try to get stronger every day,” Quade said. “My life could go anywhere, I’m just starting and I am excited.”

For more information about The Who Was? History Bee, go to whowasbookseries.com/history-bee/.