A newsmaker you should know: O'Hara student on 'Jeopardy' teen tournament
Thursday, February 10, 2011

Most of us have watched game shows and occasionally thought we'd make good contestants. It was much the same thought Steven Ho had when he turned on "Jeopardy" one night: "I could do that."

But for Steven, it wasn't just a fleeting thought.

The 17-year-old high school junior from O'Hara found himself watching the show during Teen Week.

"I went on the Internet to see how to apply, but it wasn't open at that time. I then forgot about it," he said.

Months later, he logged on to "Jeopardy's" website again, and auditions were open.

He completed the online application, including a round of testing, made the first round of cuts. He was asked to come to Philadelphia for a live audition.

Steven and his parents had to pay their own expenses for this trip. "I wanted to look at some colleges out that way, anyway, so we just drove out," he said.

During that round of eliminations, Steven played mock games with other finalists. At the end of the process -- in July -- he was told that he would hear in August if he'd been chosen for the tournament. August came and went. "I figured I didn't make it and that was that," he said.

That's why, when he returned from swimming practice one day in November and his mother told him that "Jeopardy" had called, he thought it was a joke. "I didn't believe my mom, and even when I called back the lady, I didn't believe it," he said with a laugh. "I asked her what my social security number was to prove she had my application."

Steven's father didn't believe it, either. It wasn't until the family received the per diem check for their trip to Los Angeles, where the show would be taped, that it finally sank in.

"Jeopardy" is a game in which participants choose subject categories, and provide questions for the answers given. In preparation for the contest, Steven didn't do much more than watch a lot of "Jeopardy." "I figured that was the best way to prepare, and I didn't have a lot of time," he said.

Steven and his father, Kai He, and his mother, Chaoming Zhou, went to California in early December for the taping. The show paid for one parent and Steven's expenses. There were 14 other teens in for the tournament, Steven said. "We had a couple of mock games to get us used to the buzzers and things," he said.

Steven isn't allowed to talk about the outcome of the show, which will be shown Feb. 18, but said he thought the trip was well worth it. "The best part was meeting the other kids. We have kept in touch since the show."

Steven's friends and classmates at Fox Chapel Area High School were pretty impressed by his fling with fame. "Some of them think it is pretty cool. It is actually pretty embarrassing," he said.

He also recommends other teens give the "Jeopardy" audition a shot.

"It was really, really fun," he said. "I hear the auditions are open now, and I hope other kids apply."

Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer:

First published on February 10, 2011 at 5:42 am