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Gadsden district has first spelling bee champ
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For the first time in Gadsden Elementary School District history, a San Luis Middle School student is champion of the annual Yuma County Spelling Bee.
Hours of studying and utter determination led eighth-grader Alessia Garcia to win the competition Wednesday after she correctly spelled “mistletoe.”
She did so after also giving the correct spelling of the word “oratorio,” which was misspelled by runner-up Edgardo Castro Ibarra.
Alessia, who competed in the countywide event for the first time, said it felt great to win.
Toward the end of the bee, she added that she had to ask for the language of origin of every word to ensure she spelled them correctly.
“I studied with my teacher every day after school and with my mom at home,” she said, noting that she had been studying for about two and a half weeks to prepare for the competition.
Her eighth-grade language arts teacher Craig Pemberton commented that he mostly assisted her with the pronunciation of the words on the spelling list and helped her to understand what the words meant.
“I just helped her out as much as I could, but boy — it was all her, she worked and worked and worked on this.”
He added that Alessia is also an active member of the National Junior Honors Society and holds a 4.0 grade-point average.
San Luis Middle School Vice Principal Jose Reynoso said Alessia's perseverance is ultimately what drove her to win.
“When she was competing at the school level, she said ‘I'm going to win' and when she was at the district level, she said ‘I'm here to win.' When we came to the countywide bee, she told me again ‘I'm here because I'm going to win.'”
Alessia now has a little over a month to prepare for the state spelling bee competition March 24 at Arizona State University.
Edgardo, a sixth-grade student at Gary A. Knox Elementary School, said he was very happy to receive second place after competing in the countywide bee for the second year in a row.
“I'm very excited to win. This year I didn't get the spelling bee list so I had to look them up online and have my mom test me in front of the computer.”
He said he was nervous while on stage but noted that praying in between rounds helped calm his nerves.
Victoria Pena, a seventh-grade student from Crane Middle School, placed third when she misspelled the word “nadir.”
She said she was very excited to have made it as far as she did after almost 10 rounds of spelling.
Carolyn Marquez, office administrator of the county school superintendent and co-coordinator of the spelling bee, said she felt the competition was strong this year.
“We went through a lot of words — more than previous years — and you could tell some of the spellers were pretty well prepared.”
She also noted there was a record number of spellers from Yuma schools, with students from 51 schools competing.
Karen Phillips, the Yuma Sun's Newspaper in Education manager, said she was impressed with the abilities of the students that competed.
She added that the top two participants received a plaque for their accomplishments during the pizza lunch, compliments of Domino's, one of the bee's sponsors.
Sarah Womer can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.