MY EXPERIENCE AT THE 90TH SCRIPPS NATIONAL SPELLING BEE

- Lily Tugbah (The Spelling Bee Winner 2017)

INTRODUCTION

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is a program designed to help children improve upon their spelling, increase their vocabulary and apply the right usage of words in English. It began in the year 1927 and has been taking place annually since. I was a participant of the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee as a result of winning the Spelling Bee Competition in Ghana. The Spelling Bee Ghana, is sponsored by the Young Educators’ Foundation as a subset of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. It began in the year 2007 and aim to achieve the same objective as the Scripps National Spelling Bee. I participated in the Ghana Bee for the first time in the year 2013, I learnt a lot and also had a lot of fun. I couldn’t go far, but as it is always said “If at first you don’t succeed, try again” I participated for two more times and at the third attempt, I finally won the competition by spelling the championship word “baculiform” (an adjective – meaning “shaped like a rock”) accurately after spelling for seven grueling rounds. After the competition, I prepared for the bigger challenge ahead, the Scripps National Spelling Bee by training with the National Bee Coach.

DAY 1: DEPARTURE - On 26th May, 2017

I had packed my luggage and was ready to leave; I woke up early in the morning. I brushed my teeth, took my bath and dressed up, I prayed to God and went through my study resources once again. In the evening, I went through my luggage one more time to be sure I had packed everything, I took my bath and prepared to leave for the Airport. By 5.00pm, I was all set and ready to leave as I was waiting for my parents and other members of the family so we could go to the Airport. At 6.00pm, we set off with every member of my family in the car hoping to pick up my chaperone, Miss Salome Dzakpasu. I joined Mr. Afful, my Coach and said goodbye to my family and returned to the Departure Hall. It was announced at about 10.00pm that all passengers on board South African Airways were to take their seats which we obliged to. At about 10:40 pm, the plane took off. Food was served in the Plane. I ate, watched movies and played games till I fell asleep. Highlight: getting prepared to leave for the United States. Lowlight: Saying goodbye to my family.

DAY 2: ARRIVAL - On 27th May, 2017

A day after our departure from Ghana, we (Miss Dzakpasu, Mr. Afful and I) landed safely in Washington D.C at the Dulles Airport. From the Airport, we joined a bus and headed straight to the Gaylord National Hotel, where we were shown to our rooms. Upon entering the room, I contacted my sister and took my bath. Afterwards, Mr. Afful, Miss Dzakpasu and I went to a restaurant, “Nando’s Peri Peri”, a stone throw from the hotel, where I had French fries and chicken pieces. We then went to a nearby shop to get some snacks which was to keep me from getting hungry. I fell asleep upon return.

On 28th May, 2017

All spellers were given their credentials and information with regards to their participation in the competition. We were also given Bee Keepers- A book given to spellers for their names to be written in. Each speller was given a sticker to paste on a map, the state from which they were representing, which I did by placing the sticker at the region where Ghana was found. We were also given Kindles – a device loaded with a lot of stories to be read. The program / schedule for the Bee week was handed over to us from there and we took a few pictures. I gave my Bee Keeper to some spellers to sign for me and vice versa. After everything was done, I was granted an interview to tell how prepared I was.
Highlight: meeting new people
Lowlight: Not getting many signatures in my bee Keeper.

DAY 4: LAUNCH OF 90TH SCRIPPS NATIONAL SPELLING BEE - On 29th May, 2017

Which happened to be my birthday as well, when I woke up, I took my bath, brushed my teeth and had breakfast. I was overwhelmed and excited when Mr. Afful and Miss Dzakpasu wished me a happy birthday. Mr. Afful tutored me for a while and then went back to his room to prepare for the day. In the evening, we all headed for the Maryland Ballroom for the launch of the Spelling Bee and to be given some information on the competition. There were two informants; Corrie Loeffler and Nicole Dittoe. After going through the activities for the day, it was announced that some spellers were celebrating their birthdays and they needed to be recognized and applauded by the audience. The names of the celebrants were mentioned from the beginning to the end of the Bee Week. When my name was mentioned, I stood up in my African Print dress to wave at everyone. We were told that there were surprises waiting in the rooms for all birthday celebrants. After the event, I was asked to take a picture with Miss Corrie because she was also dressed in the African Print which she got when she came to Ghana together with the whole Scripps National Spelling Bee team who witnessed the 10th Edition of the Spelling Bee in Ghana. There was a birthday card and a cake in the refrigerator when we returned to the room.
Highlight: My birthday being announced to everyone.
Lowlight: Sleeping late.

DAY 5: PRELIMINARIES (VOCABULARY TESTING) AND TOUR - On 30th May, 2017

The day begun with the preliminaries ( a vocabulary test all spellers had to take which counts as Round 1). We took a similar test in Ghana but everything is more intense here! ) The test lasted for about 1 hour, after that, Ms. Salome and I boarded a bus which took us on a tour around Washington DC, specifically the once related to Abraham Lincoln. In the bus, we had a tour guide who was pointing out important buildings and places and telling us stories about them. Some of such places included the Federal Bureau Agency (FBA) among others. The journey took about twenty-five to thirty minutes. When we finally arrived at the Lincoln Memorial Center, we were shocked as we saw statues of great people and the roles they played during Abraham Lincoln’s term of office. We then proceeded to a restaurant called ‘Hard Rock’ where we had lunch and continued with our tour afterwards. Our next tour site was Abraham’s Lincoln’s cottage. There, we learnt about how he was always bombarded with visitors who always needed his help since he was a friendly person. However, he became a totally different person altogether after he lost his son, which was why he wanted a serene and peaceful environment to live and hence his decision to move to the cottage. Abraham Lincoln’s desire to end slavery in America even though it was opposed is something we also learnt. Above all, we learnt that Abraham Lincoln was a great leader; one to learn from.
Highlight: The tour to the Lincoln Center.
Lowlight: The tension during the vocabulary testing

DAY 6: (ON-STAGE SPELLING)

This day marked one of the important days in the Scripps National Spelling Bee Competition because it was the second day of the preliminaries (on-stage spelling). All spellers were to spell two words and the best fifty (50) spellers who would advance to the national finals following the collation of the results of both the spelling and the vocabulary test were to be selected later during the day. I was woken up by Ms. Salome at 5;00am to study, have breakfast, take my bath and meet with Mr. Afful at 9;00am because all spellers had to report to the Maryland Ballroom at 10;00am for the competition. When it was 9:10am I met with Mr. Afful and he quizzed me on some words (which really didn’t go well). After he was done with the quiz, I went back to the room I shared with Ms. Salome and Ms. Eugenia. A few minutes before 10 a.m. Salome and I went to the Maryland Ballroom. I was quickly given my seat with other spellers and the competition began. I was very nervous as I watched how many spellers got their words correct, while others got theirs wrong, but, I liked how the pronouncer, Dr. Jacques Bailly was very friendly to each speller. When it was finally time for me to spell, I went towards the microphone and was given ‘SPLANCHNOLOGY’. I asked all the necessary questions and was told was Greek, meaning the study of the internal organs of the body in a branch of anatomy. After hearing the origin, I was confused because I was taught that Greek words pronounced /k/ are spelt with ‘ch’. But unfortunately, I spelt it with a ‘k’ and got it wrong. I felt bad and kept blaming myself because if I had just applied the Spelling Rules, I would have made it to the next round. As I got down from the stage, one of the friends I had made offered to give me a hug and I accepted. It was a long day and I felt bad but words of encouragement from Mr. Afful made me feel better.
Highlight: Being able to face a very large crowd for the first time
Lowlight: Getting disqualified from the competition

DAY 7: FINALS

1ST June, 2017 marked the finals of the competition. When I woke up, I got ready and put on the TV. I then turned it on to the ESPN Channel to watch the finals of the competition. There were only fifty spellers who qualified to the finals and were competing for the ultimate prize. After watching for some time, Mr Afful came to get me so we could go to the Maryland Ballroom to watch the competition. After a while, I went back to the room to watch the finals. The competition continued and I watched till Aunt Salome came back from her errand and escorted me to the Ballroom again. The competition was very tough, but in the end, the winner was Ananya Vinay, 12years old, from Fresno, California, who correctly spelt ‘MAROCAIN’. After the competition ended, I went back to the room to have supper and after that, I slept.
Highlight: Being able to watch the finals of the Scripps National Spelling bee live for the first time.
Lowlight: Me not participating in the competition.

DAY 8: SHOPPING

On 2nd June, 2017 which happened to be our last few day from Maryland, I went shopping with Aunt Salome and Aunt Eugenia. We first went to a shop where I bought shoes for myself, loads of gifts for members of my family which included, purses for my sisters and aunt and a bag for my mum. I also bought wallets for my dad and coach, and a shirt for my cousin. It was fun.
Highlight: The fun I had in shopping.
Lowlight: My departure from the United States.

DAY 9: DEPARTURE

On June 3, Ms. Eugenia, Ms. Salome and I packed and set off for the airport. It was very different from our airport in Ghana, much bigger and much busier. We boarded the plane which took off.at about 5.00pm. 3rd June, 2017 was our arrival to Ghana. We arrived at the Kotoka International Airport, went for our luggage and went out to the Arrival Hall. My family was already waiting to welcome me. I told them about my experience and the fun I had each day with meeting new friends, hearing their studying experiences and so on. When we got home, I freshened up, ate some food and then went to bed. I would like to express my profound gratitude to all the sponsors of the Spelling Bee, especially, the Title sponsor, Indomie, South African Airways for safe trips to and from the United States of America, Club Muscatella, Voltic Natural Mineral Water, Blue Knights Bookshop, I learn Tablets, Multichoice Ghana, my friends, parents, tutors, all my supporters and the Almighty God.

CONCLUSION

I was really devastated when I got out of the competition, but with words of encouragement from my Coach, my family and friends, I felt better. In all, I can say that the Spelling Bee is an educative program, which is not only about spelling, but about meeting and making new friends and gaining some knowledge from them. . I would like to encourage every other speller, that “failure doesn’t discourage, but rather it teaches,” and “nothing good comes easy.” To win the Spelling Bee, one must be very dedicated and determined and focused. My greatest thanks go to the Almighty God. I would like to say a big thank you to the Spelling Bee Team for all their support and my Chaperone, Miss Salome Dzakpasu and my Coach, Mr. Emmanuel Afful for all the time he put in to train me. I would also like to say a big thank you to the Title sponsor Indomie, for being with the spelling Bee team from scratch. Also, I would like to thank South African Airways for safe trips to and from Maryland. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to the Country Director of the Spelling Bee Programme, Mrs. Eugenia Tachie-Menson for the splendid job she is doing in nurturing kids to be able to broaden their vocabulary, enhance their learning skills and use the English language effectively. God richly bless you.