Prince George County Spelling Bee.
Prince George County Spelling Bee.

Students in Prince George’s County who had their hearts set on participating in the annual spelling bee sponsored for years by the Gazette and Gazette-Star can still set their radars to “ready, set, spell,” as The Washington Informer newspaper has stepped up to the plate to carry on the time-honored tradition.

Officials for the Gazette newspapers announced this summer that they would be shuttering operations that included sponsorship of the county’s spelling bee.

“The Gazette and Gazette-Star are now closed and The Washington Informer has volunteered to carry on the mantle and present the 2016 Prince George’s County Spelling Bee in March,” said Chauka Reid, former Gazette advertising manager, who coordinated the bee for the past five years.

“Our bees have always been open to 6th-, 7th- and 8th-grades and past competitions have been very exciting, well-attended community events that are free and open to the public,” Reid said, adding that the next bee will be held March 11 at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center in College Park, Maryland.

“We applaud last year’s winner, Tamya Matthew, from Mt. Calvary Catholic School, along with all the teachers, parents and students who also participated,” Reid said.

Students who missed the county bee’s initial enrollment period can still sign up between Oct. 16 and Dec.11. Each school’s spelling bee coordinator will work with Reid to ensure that the necessary forms and accompanying fees are submitted.

And, as in the case of The Informer’s annual citywide bee, also held in March and open to students grades 4 through 8, from public, charter, private and home schools, whoever wins the county’s bee will move on to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, always held in May at the Gaylord Hotel and Resorts Center at National Harbor in southern Maryland.

“The Informer welcomes the opportunity to sponsor the spelling bee in Prince George’s County,” said Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes. “When we first had the opportunity to participate as a sponsor years ago, we hoped to include Prince George’s County. Now another opportunity has presented itself to us and we look forward to embracing it. We invite all of Prince George’s County to celebrate our participating youth by continuing to support the bee.”

Joanna Benjamin, manager for D.C. Public Schools Reading Intervention Office of Teaching and Learning will serve as a coordinator for The Informer’s contest. Registration has already begun and information with instructions for participation was recently sent home with students.

Benjamin said that spelling proficiency supports both the reading and writing ability of students.

“The English writing system is complex, thus preparation for a spelling bee is a comprehensive learning process that promotes literacy acquisition,” Benjamin said. “The Washington Informer, through its sponsorship of a citywide spelling bee [continually serves as] a community advocate for literacy among the youth of the District of Columbia, and now, Prince George’s County as well.”

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