Organizers of the 2022 Eleuthera District Inter-School Spelling Bee competition – which took place on Thursday morning, February 3rd, 2022 – got creative this year with the location of the event, hosting it at the well appointed Farmer’s Market facility at One Eleuthera’s Center for Training and Innovation (CTI). The building, which was converted in recent years to facilitate local vendors in an open-air space, but still protected from the elements, was perfect for hosting the Bee – allowing for safe physical distancing, in a covered open-air environment.
Six schools participated in the annual spelling competition (which allows students from grades 4 through 8 to take part), with twelve students vying for the opportunity to represent Eleuthera at the National Spelling Bee, scheduled to take place on March 3rd, 2022 in New Providence.
The young competitors, many of whom had already won intra-school spelling competitions for the opportunity to represent their schools on Thursday, included: Robin Smith, 13-year old 8th grader from the Harbour Island Green School; Wes Underwood, 12-year old 7th grade student from Samuel Guy Pinder All-Age School; Amari Hall, 11-year old 7th grader from the Harbour Island Green School; Violet Russell, 12-year old 8th grader from Samuel Guy Pinder All-Age School; Josiah Cartwright, 10-year old 6th grader from Laura L. Anderson Primary School; Sohan Bryan, 11-year old 7th grader from Central Eleuthera High School; De’Anntae Hepburn, 11-year old 7th grader from Preston H. Albury High School; Zachary Ward, 10-year old 6th grader from Rock Sound Primary School; Nevaeh Bedford, 11-year old 6th grader from Laura L. Anderson Primary School; Simmia Lafleur, 11-year old 6th grader from Rock Sound Primary School; Tamia Knowles, 12-year old 7th grader from the Central Eleuthera High School; and Riannah Laramore, 12-year old 7th grader from Preston H. Albury High School.
To get the students relaxed and comfortable before getting the competion underway, moderator, Mrs. Geneal Sweeting, in a warm and fun way, invited each one up to the microphone and asked them interesting questions about who they were as young pre-teens and teens, getting them to open up about their likes and hobbies – things they enjoyed doing, also their future aspirations and what inspired them in their dreams and goals. Among the dynamic dozen ready to duke it out in spelling, there were budding scientists, musicians, fashion gurus, ornithologists and many others.
Eleuthera District Superintendent of Education, Mr. Michael Culmer, thanked all of the volunteers who helped to pull together the event, as well as the schools and coaches for their investment in the young spellers, and the judges – most of whom were veteran volunteers for the district’s spelling bees and other academic competitions.
Round one began with all twelve contestants in and raring to go, and after the likes of ‘noggin’, ‘cowlick’ and ‘munchkin’, ten spellers made it through to move on to round two. Three students in round two mis-spelled their words, leaving seven competitors in round three. All seven got through round three, which saw words like ‘metadata’, ‘jitterbug’ and ‘hodgepodge’ fail to unseat the determined juniors. Rounds four and five, took out another three spellers, which set up a face-off in round six between Samuel Guy Pinder All Age and Central Eleuthera High – both schools with two competitors remaining. ‘Whirlybird’ and ‘fructose’ were the undoing of the two Samuel Guy Pinder students, who both bowed out of the running for 1st and 2nd place. Before judges moved on to the final stage of the competition, a spell-off took place between Violet Russell and Wes Underwood for 3rd place, with Wes coming out ahead.
The final competition between Tamia Knowles and Sohan Bryan – both from Central Eleuthera High School, was then underway. After getting through ‘marathon’, ‘stewardship’ and ‘obsolete’, the contest would be decided by the word ‘sedentary’ which Tamia missed in her first attempt. Sohan, given the opportunity, went on to spell it correctly, and was then given his final word, ‘pristine’. Hand claps from the audience and judges could be heard as Sohan completed his final hurdle to take the 2022 Eleuthera District Inter-School Spelling Bee champion title. He is expected to represent Eleuthera in the nationals during the weekend of March 17th – 20th.
Mrs. Marie Galanis, Chairperson of the organizing committee, in comments following the well-fought contest, highlighted the contribution of former DSE Helen Simmons-Johnson, who oversaw the expansion of annual spelling competitions hosted in the Eleuthera school district to include grades 1-5, at each level. This program, said Galanis, saw the improvement of not just spelling skills, but also the expansion of vocabulary and improvement of writing skills seen in junior high students who had participated in on-island spelling bees at multiple primary grade levels. The experience of former Eleuthera District winner, Johnathan Randall, who went on to win nationally and to participate in the Scripps Spelling Bee in the US in 2018, was hailed as an example of the success of the multi-level spelling bee program on-island.
The final results of Thursday’s Eleuthera District Inter-School Spelling Bee, was Wes Underwood from Samuel Guy Pinder All-Age School in 3rd place, Tamia Knowles from Central Eleuthera High School in 2nd place, and Sohan Bryan from Central Eleuthera High School in 1st place – as Eleuthera’s 2022 Spelling Bee champion.