Alum wins “Jeopardy!”


Henkoff stands with “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek.

Alexandra Henkoff grew up watching “Jeopardy!” with her grandmother, but she never expected that she would have the opportunity to put her trivia knowledge to the test on the popular game, let alone win it all.

Henkoff attended SJS from 1997 to 2001 until her family moved out of state following her sophomore year. As the Director of Admissions and Test Preparation for At-Home Tutoring Services, she has built expertise in many fields of her career. She earned her Masters in educational leadership from Rice University and is a member of the Texas Association of College Admissions Counselors and National Association of College Admissions Counselors. Henkoff also holds a credential in college admissions counseling from the University of California. This past January, Henkoff took her knowledge to a new level by participating in the “Jeopardy!” game show in Los Angeles, California.

A regular participant in trivia nights, Henkoff was encouraged by friends to take the online “Jeopardy!” test that attracts thousands of participants hoping for the ability to qualify for an audition. After passing a second attempt, Henkoff was called to a local audition, which was attended by “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek.

“[Trebek] showed up to my audition, and I think my mouth dropped open,” Henkoff said. “It was a little bit surreal.”

Only a few thousand test-takers make it to the in-person auditions phase and, beyond that, mere hundreds are called onto the show.

“Lots of people wait years and years for an audition or audition multiple times before they make it on the show, so I got really lucky,” Henkoff said.

After making it past the auditions, potential players can wait up to 18 months to be called for the show, with some never getting called. Henkoff, however, had a nearly immediate turnaround, as she auditioned on a Friday and was called back the following Monday. Henkoff then flew to Los Angeles with her husband, where she participated in two shows.

Henkoff’s career as a tutor for middle and high school students helped her succeed in the competition, as many questions come from subjects that Henkoff taught to her students.

“There were a couple questions that I had, not on the show itself, but in the mock game we played in the audition and on the test, that related directly to conversations I’d had with seniors who I worked on college essays with recently,” Henkoff said. “One eighth grader I tutor was learning about geography, and one of the questions I had studied with her came right up.  I definitely owe my tutoring students one.”

Going into “Final Jeopardy!” Henkoff was behind her competitors, so she tried her luck and bet most of her money for a shot at taking first place. Much to her surprise, Henkoff ended up winning the competition.

“I assumed there was no possible way I was going to win,” Henkoff said. “It didn’t actually hit me that it was really money that we were talking about until I came down off and signed my paperwork.”

Henkoff has tutored junior Caroline Burnett since March of Burnett’s sophomore year, and she, along with many of Henkoff’s former and current students, celebrated her victory together. At that point, Henkoff had only told her mother, as her husband had been in attendance at the show. At-Home Tutoring Services organized the watch party at Cafe Express on Friday, April 27, so students could congregate to cheer on their tutor.

“I stopped by for a few minutes, and it was really fun,” Burnett said. “I expected her to win!”

Henkoff hopes to use her winnings to take her toddler to see baseball stadiums around the country, starting by attending a Houston Astros game.

“I was so lucky to grow up in an environment where learning was really celebrated, and I feel really lucky that I got to do something cool with my being a nerd,” she said.