A student competes in the D.C. City-Wide Cluster Bees on Feb. 9. The winners will go on to the citywide bee in March. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)
A student competes in the D.C. City-Wide Cluster Bees on Feb. 9. The winners will go on to the citywide bee in March. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

After two days of intense competition, the pool of contestants for the citywide spelling bee has been whittled down to 33 young people.

Each student successfully exhibited finesse in spelling multisyllabic and often phonetically deceiving words during a cluster bee held at THEARC in Southeast.

The cluster bee, held Feb. 9 and 10, precedes the annual citywide spelling bee. This year’s spelling bee, scheduled for March 19, marks 40 years since The Washington Informer became a sponsor of the annual scholastic event.

Throughout the cluster bee, more than 140 spelling bee champions from 47 public, public charter and private schools participated in four competitions that brought them face to face with peers from across the city. At the end of each round, at least seven young people rose to the occasion.

“I look forward to greater competitors, people to meet and harder words [to spell],” said Nathaniel Ezra, an eighth grader at St. Augustine Catholic School in Northwest.

On the morning of Feb. 10, Nathaniel secured the top spot in his cluster bee when he correctly spelled the word “physicists.” He credited his study regimen as the main ingredient in his victory.

“I prepare by going to my room where it’s silent, writing the words down and repeating them,” he said. “I do whatever it takes. I wanted to win, win and win. I try to take part in anything that interests me. I think spelling is great [because] it helps with spelling tests and whenever I don’t know a word.”

Contestants, whose grade level ranged from third to eighth, received words from the same list. If they spelled a word correctly, the moderator advised the contestant and they were allowed to return to their seat. The ring of a judge’s bell followed each incorrect spelling. From there, contestants left the stage while their peers, family members and others cheered them on for their efforts.

By the third round, a handful of contestants in each competition remained on stage, regardless of whether they correctly spelled the word given to them. That group would eventually qualify for the citywide spelling bee.

Schools represented at the cluster bee included Richard: Wright Public Charter School in Southwest; Savoy Elementary School in Southeast; Wheatley Education Campus in Northeast; and Whittier Education Campus, Roots Public Charter School, and National Presbyterian School, each in Northwest.

Lafayette Elementary, Janney Elementary School in Northwest, St. Augustine Catholic School and National Presbyterian counted among the schools with more than one student moving to the citywide spelling bee.

On Feb. 10, Nikoloz Dzimtseishvili said he looked at the cluster bee as just another day of fun. The fourth grader, a first-time spelling been participant, held his own throughout much of the morning before coming in second to Nathaniel. He, too, recounted his study regimen as the foundation of his victory.

“I just had my mom read out the words and ask if I knew them,” said Nikoloz, a student at National Presbyterian School.“Sometimes, if I didn’t [know], I would try. Throughout the competition, I tried to have fun. I’m looking forward to having more fun, seeing one of my friends and winning,” he said.

“I think spelling and competition in general, is a cool way to learn. I’m going to add some extra difficulty to my preparation for the citywide bee,” Nathaniel said.

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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