Amor Wilson is the winner of the 2021 annual Prince George’s County Spelling Bee. The sixth grader at Bradbury Heights Elementary School battled through 15 rounds before officially taking the title with the word “solenoid.”
Friday night’s competition was the first virtual spelling bee held by The Washington Informer since becoming the National Scripps Spelling Bee’s local sponsor 39 years ago in D.C. and five years ago in Prince George’s County. COVID-19 caused the cancellation of last year’s spelling bee in Prince George’s County, and the option of holding a virtual spelling bee this year seemed unlikely.
Would students be willing to take on another virtual activity beyond classroom time? Amor and the other competitors — fifth through eighth-graders — proved eager and capable, as they challenged each other round after round to win the coveted title of Prince George’s County’s Top Speller.
Dressed in a white dress shirt and sky-blue bow tie, Amor came to the bee already a winner. He won his school spelling bee in 2018 and hoped success would be his again. The oldest of three children, Amor’s knack for spelling is one of several hobbies that bring him joy, including sports, particularly track and football. He is also a music fan and enjoys drawing and reading in his downtime.
Amor, like students across the U.S., said the pandemic made him feel “nervous.”
“However, my family, friends, and classmates try to find the positives in this pandemic,” he said. “We are always giving each other words of encouragement.”
He used the pandemic to challenge himself, personally.
“One of my goals during the pandemic was to win the spelling bee,” Amor said.
The competition was fierce, particularly when the final three participants, Amor, Elizabeth Curly, a seventh grader at Benjamin Tasker Middle School, and Kristin Milburn, an eighth grader at St. Mary of the Mills School went back and forth for nine rounds until it came down to Amor and Elizabeth.
Wilson took the victory in the 15th round by spelling the word “solenoid.” He was calm in his final spelling, and shortly afterward, the magnitude of his victory settled onto him.
“I was shocked,” replied Amor. “At first, I didn’t think I would make it that far.”
“A lot of the words I didn’t even know and had to guess.”
“I am an extremely proud mother,” said Lutrell Wilson, Amor’s mother. “I remember him saying he wanted to win another spelling bee, but I wasn’t sure there would even be one because of the pandemic.”
“We are so proud of these students who are winners for just being a part of this virtual event,” said Chauka Reid, coordinator of the Prince George’s Spelling Bee. “And, it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of The Clarice at the University of Maryland, who took the chance to produce a virtual spelling bee this year.”
Nearly 80 people viewed the live stream that lasted almost two hours. This year’s sponsors included Safeway Foundation, Pepco, The Washington Nationals, Educational Systems Federal Credit Union, Foundation for the Advancement of Music & Education (FAME), The Clarice, The Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce, and Washington Gas.
Judges included Jeannine Dorothy, Lorraine Walker, Helen Knowles and Dr. Elizabeth Primas. The moderator was Dave Zahren.
Zahren gave words of encouragement to the participants before the event.
“No matter what happens, everybody wins because you are going to bring honor to yourselves, your schools, your families, and certainly to the county,” Zahran said.
Wilson will receive a trophy and $100 from The Washington Informer, Apple Air Pods, and a Fire tablet from the Educational Systems Federal Credit Union. The two runners-up will receive prizes, as well.
Wilson has secured a spot in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, where he will be representing Prince George’s County.