3rd annual VOOC Spelling Bee hailed a success

POSTED: 05/20/14 9:45 PM

St. Maarten – More than 40 first, second and third grade students from 17 elementary schools participated in the 2014 Spelling Bee Competition organized by the Voice Of Our Children (VOOC) Foundation.

Sponsored by Guardian Group, B &C Beverages, Divico, Meyers Group of Companies and the Windward Island Bank,the third annual contest  appeared bigger than ever and featured young people who were well prepared, alert and insightful.
Held yesterday afternoon at the Bel Air Community Centre, a capacity crowd supported the event and after 6 hours of nail biting competition, Madison Solemon (9) of the Learning Unlimited Preparatory School won the third grade category, Lavanya  Budhwani  (8) of the Methodist Agogic Centre St. John’s Campus won the second grade category and
Denny Mo (7) of the St. Joseph School won the first grade category.
For their efforts the winners received medals of distinction and trophies as well as  gift baskets of school supplies and certificates of participation, that were also handed out to all participants.

It was a tough competition as the students made light work of every challenging word the judges threw their way. There was not much room for error and at the end, it all came down to who had memorized their word list and prepared most effectively. Nine year old third-graders especially were tasked with spelling complex words like “encyclopedia”, “exhilaration”, “conscientious”, “exasperation” and “argumentative”. If their academic prowess was anything to go by, then the future is bright for St. Maarten.

Nine year old Saheli H. Kirpalani of the Methodist Agogic Centre Betty’s Estate  Campus received a standing ovation, after she interrupted the contest to inform the judges that she had spelt the word expense with a “c” instead of a “s”. Kirpalani’s error may have been missed by the judges completely even after the audience protested and they allowed her to continue the competition. But the young woman demonstrated that she values honesty and after two rounds of correctly spelt words, she returned to admit her mistake thereby excluding her from a win.

Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams in opening remarks said that organizers, teachers, and parents all needed to be congratulated for investing their time and knowledge in the preparation of the children.
“Only a few can get the first prize but all of you deserve a prize because you are all winners,” she said.
She indicated that adults can learn from children as much as the children learn from the adults in their lives.
“As the community of St. Maarten continues to support these types of initiatives, I think our children will be able to demonstrate the confidence that is so necessary for them as they grow into adulthood.”
Noting that words have power, Sidonia  Hodge, representing the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports challenged the participants to always remember three terms.  “Prepare, represent and excel. Today you represent yourselves, families, schools and our St. Maarten.”
The contest, she said will help each participant excel, read more effectively and become leaders, who usually are readers. She also expressed appreciation for the  VOOC whose efforts are not only aimed at promoting reading but literacy and excellence in the society.
Rules of the competition were outlined by Youth Department head Aventurin. Each participant was given the opportunity to spell 10 words in the preliminary round. Those who spelt 8 out of 10 correctly were allowed to proceed to the “spell off” round, until there was only one contestant standing in each category.
A red flag was hoisted for words spelt incorrectly while a green flag signaled the judges’ approval.
Moderator,  former Education Minister Dr. Rhoda Arrindell was tasked with repeating each word 3 times and also used the words in sentences, before receiving a response from the participants. Aggie James, Veronica Brown and Member of Parliament Silvia Olivaccee-Meyers comprised the judging panel.
Guardian Group sales associate Othmar  Henrietta related that the company was proud to be major sponsor of the event that is helping children become successful adults.
“The benefits of the spelling bee’s reach extend far beyond the spelling of words…..It promotes self- confidence, high self esteem and the ability to stand against pressure,” Henrietta noted.
He added that for children to succeed, they need a good education which is costly. Guardian Group therefore developed  an Insured Education Savings Plan which provides coverage to students desirous of pursuing tertiary education in the future.
The VOOC urged all those in attendance to continue educating and supporting young people so that they can become the future of St. Maarten.

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