At right, Batavia Middle School student Jack Garrison is pictured during
a taping of “Genius Junior.” (Photo courtesy of NBC/Evans Vestal Ward)
At right, Batavia Middle School student Jack Garrison is pictured during a taping of “Genius Junior.” (Photo courtesy of NBC/Evans Vestal Ward)
An area middle schooler’s intelligence has landed him a prestigious spot on an NBC game show. Later this month, the nation will get to see Jack Garrison showcase his navigation, math, spelling and memorization skills on “Genius Junior.”

Jack Garrison, 11, of Batavia is in the sixth grade at Batavia Middle School. He is the son of two McClain High School graduates, Jason Garrison and the former Elizabeth Parker. Garrison said that he still has a lot of family in Greenfield, including both sets of grandparents, Steve and Mary Jane Parker and Gary and Sandy Garrison. Garrison told The Highland County Press that when one of his teachers found out about “Genius Junior,” she thought of him. His reading teacher had received an email seeking gifted students, as she is the adviser for Future City, an engineering education competition program.



“The organization sent out an email about this new show,” Garrison said. “It said to tell kids you think would be good for it that it’s happening. After she got the email, she sent it to my mom, and so my mom told me.”

According to NBC’s website (nbc.com), “Genius Junior” aims to “celebrate the brightest children in America.”

“This one-hour competition series is the ultimate test of intelligence and endurance,” the website said. “Twelve teams of the most incredible children in the country, ages 8 to 12, will take the stage to compete in a series of increasingly complex quizzes with the goal of being crowned Genius Junior.

“Over four rounds, with each round tougher than the last, teams of three will have to work together to beat the competition. Each episode’s winning team will then get to take on The Cortex – the toughest test of smarts on the planet – to build up their prize fund. It’s not enough to win a spelling bee, be a mathlete or even a memory champion. To win ‘Genius Junior,’ you have to be brilliant at everything.

“The winning team will take home a ‘Genius Junior’ grant that will set the stage for a big and bright future that lies ahead.”

After taking an IQ test and initially qualifying for the show, Garrison said that he went through a series of auditions before being selected.

“I had to do two phone interviews, and then I had to do two Skype interviews with the casting directors,” Garrison said. “Then I flew to Los Angeles for an audition. There were 60 kids there, and they narrowed it down to 36 kids. That was in April and June 2017.”

About two weeks after the audition in Los Angeles, Garrison’s family was notified via email that he had been chosen as a contestant.

“It was exciting,” Garrison said. “It was kind of hard. It was just a lot, but it wasn’t really stressful.”

Each episode of “Genius Junior” has four rounds that include testing the contestants’ memory of a particular navigation system (such as airline routes or a city’s subway system); answering math equations that increase in difficulty; spelling words backward; and memorizing, and reciting in order, a shuffled deck of cards. Garrison said that he had to prove he was able to answer such questions during the interview process.

“In my Skype interviews with the casting director, I had to do basically what the rounds are,” Garrison said. “It was math, spelling and cards. There’s another round, the ‘human GPS’ round. I didn’t get that with the casting director.”

Garrison said that he spent at least an hour a day studying for 15 days last summer before taping his episode. For Garrison, whose favorite subjects include math and history, he said he put a lot of effort in studying for the spelling test.

“The words ranged from seven to 15 letters, backward,” he said. “We studied every day, and I mean every day. I mean, how else are you going to do good, if you don’t study every day? Especially with this. Some of the words are truly hard.”

Each team on the show includes three students, and Garrison was paired with Nolan, a 10-year-old boy from Tennessee, and Eashani, a 10-year-old girl from Arizona.

“We bonded pretty quickly,” Garrison said. “We had to study together and do all the rounds together. We practiced together. We hang out and ate together, and it was fun. They were nice.”

The trio’s team name is “Wicked Smaht,” and Garrison explained how they came up with the name.

“Right after they told us we were on, they told us to send some name ideas in,” Garrison said. “Then about a week or two later, they said they might not have the legal rights to some of them. They had copyright issues. They told us to send in more ideas. When we got there, we did a team interview, and they told us our name, Wicked Smaht.”

Although Garrison did not want to give away any details of the show, he said that math is his favorite subject in school (and that he has a “cool” math teacher), so he liked the challenge of the math quiz on “Genius Junior.”

“It wasn’t that bad, but it was kind of hard,” Garrison said. “I get some of them when I watch the show, but sometimes I get lost.”

Garrison was also able to show off his fashion trademark – a bow tie – during the taping of his episode.

“I like wearing bow ties, and on the show, I’m actually wearing a bow tie,” Garrison said. “I have a whole collection of like 15 bow ties. People say they’re making a comeback.”

Garrison said that overall, competing on the show was “a little stressful, but pretty fun.”

NBC’s official contestant biography of Garrison emphasizes his love of U.S. presidential history: “When he was 4, he memorized the order of the U.S. presidents. By the time he hit double digits, he knew everything there was to know about all the presidents. His dream is to become president one day and live in the White House so that he can have his own bowling alley. He’s already working on his campaign slogan, ‘You deserve more in 2044.’”

Garrison spoke about his “obsession” with learning more about U.S. presidents.

“I can recite them all in order, and I visit a lot of their houses,” Garrison said. “I’ve been to about 30 of the presidents’ houses. I also have the entire collection of presidents – except Donald Trump because they don’t have one yet – in Pez dispensers.

“I read a lot of books about presidents. It’s an overall obsession.”

Garrison said he is looking forward to watching his episode and is thinking about having a viewing party with his family and friends.

“My friends at school are excited,” Garrison said. “I told them one day, and it spread like wildfire.”

At Batavia Middle School, Garrison is involved in the astronomy club and is a member of student council. However, he is involved in a number of other extracurricular activities outside the school.

“I’m a Boy Scout,” Garrison said. “I really like it. It’s fun. I’m on a Lego Robotics team, that’s really fun. It’s a big challenge, but I like challenges.

“I’m also in 4-H. I do a cooking project every year. This year, I’m taking cooking and woodworking projects and a genealogy project.”

In addition to math, Garrison said he also enjoys science classes, but he really likes all of his classes. He has a wide range of interests and hobbies, most of which are academic in nature, and was preparing to compete in a National History Bee event April 4.

“It’s a national competition,” Garrison said. “It resembles ‘Jeopardy,’ kind of. There’s a moderator, and 10 people per round maximum. The moderator reads the questions, 30 in a row, and you buzz in as soon as you know.”

“Jeopardy” is another game show Garrison enjoys, and a future challenge he’d like to conquer is qualifying for “Teen Jeopardy” in a few years, when he’s old enough.

“I am like the king of useless facts,” Garrison said. “I watch ‘Jeopardy’ all the time, and I try to get the answers. I got a Jeopardy calendar for 2018, and every day there’s a clue, with three clues from a category in a row. So every day, I play along with the calendar and the show.”

Garrison’s episode of “Genius Junior” airs Sunday, April 29 at 9 p.m. on NBC. For more information, including video interviews with Garrison and other contestants, visit nbc.com/genius-junior.