Girls dominate annual spelling bee

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Rocky Mount Academy sixth-grade student Prisha Patel won first place in the Advancement Spelling Bee on Thursday at the Dunn Center.


Staff Writer

Friday, March 23, 2018

The Patels of Rocky Mount Academy scored another victory Thursday night as the sister of last year’s winner of the Advancement Spelling Bee took the top prize with the word “terrapin.”

“I am very glad I won,” said Prisha Patel, a sixth-grade student at the private school. Last year, her brother, Krutik Patel, who was at that time an eighth-grade student at Rocky Mount Academy, won the Advancement Spelling Bee. 

Patel said her brother did not help her much in preparing for the spelling bee. Krutik Patel was not even able to attend the event because he was performing  in Rocky Mount Academy’s production of “Grease” at the Imperial Centre.

Instead, Patel said her dad and mom, both natives of India for whom English is a second language, coached both her and her brother to victory.

Lesterine Sturdivant, co-chairwoman of the Advancement Spelling Bee, said this is the ninth year for the local spelling bee, which is held each year at the Dunn Center on the campus of N.C. Wesleyan College. The first modern spelling bee was held nine years ago at J.W. Parker Middle School with only 20 students.

“The students were inspired to have a spelling bee after watching ‘Akeelah and the Bee,’” Sturdivant said.

In 2012, the Delta Center for Life Development, a local nonprofit group that supports educational opportunities in the Twin Counties, began to work with the Scripps National Spelling Bee to host a larger effort. Since 2012, the Twin Counties Advancement Spelling Bee has sent six students to the Washington, D.C., area to compete on the national level.

Thursday night's winner will be the seventh. Patel will travel with one parent for an all-expense paid trip this summer to the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center near Washington, D.C., to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Patel also wins a trophy and the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award. Merriam Webster also awarded a one-year subscription to the Encyclopedia Britannica Online, a subscription to Merriam Webster online to the winner.

Thursday was definitely a girls’ night for victory. Zhebria Milliner-Williams, an eighth-grade student at Parker Middle School, and Carla Ann-Katie Smalls, a seventh-grader at Parker Middle, tied for third place in the spelling bee. Layali Samer Kasem, an eighth-grade student at Edwards Middle School, took home the prize as first runner-up in the competition. Each took home a trophy and a copy of the third edition of the Merriam Webster Dictionary.

This year's competition drew the largest number of contestants yet. About 57 students representing 29 elementary and middle schools in the Twin Counties participated in the event.

“This is the largest group of participants we have had,” said Edith Penny, chairwoman of the Delta Center for Life Development. “It is exciting to see this program grow.

“The future lies with all these champions and we are grateful to witness their success.”