Woodland Park, Northwest collaborate on spelling bee


Fourth- and fifth-graders from the Woodland Park and Northwest units of the Boys and Girls Club of Alachua County were contestants in the Appreciating Black Culture Spelling Bee at Woodland Park. Front, from left, second-place winner Stefan Slone, first-place winner Kahmari Douglas, David Sanchez and Julie Gachette, and back, from left, Jacques Hardy, Josiah Dye, Eric Hixson, Darien Daniels and third-place winner Kailey Simmons.

AIDA MALLARD/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 2:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 2:15 p.m.

You could feel the competitive energy in the air as students from the Woodland Park and Northwest units of the Boys and Girls Club of Alachua County prepared to face each other at the Appreciating Black Culture Spelling Bee.

Nine fourth- and fifth-grade students, who were cheered on by family and friends, participated in the spelling bee held last Wednesday at Woodland Park.

Kahmari Douglas of Woodland Park and a fifth-grader at Williams Elementary School, won a sudden-death match with Stefan Slone of the Northwest Unit and a fourth-grader at Glen Springs Elementary School, by spelling “dignitaries” and “inferior.” Kailey Simmmons, also of the Northwest Unit and a fifth-grader at Littlewood Elementary School, won third place.

Kahmari said the spelling bee was “kind of hard,” with some really hard words in the mix. “I’m very excited,” Kahmari said. “I feel like I won a million dollars.”

The Flossie B. McLendon Memorial Drill Team, led by Bernard Hicks, commander of the drill team, presented the colors and led participants in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Ashley Auplant, a member of the praise team at Showers of Blessings Harvest Center, and Melonie Jackson, director of the praise team at Higher Anointing World Ministries, led the audience in singing “Lift Ev’ry Voice,” the black national anthem. Keenen Harvey, a counselor at Woodland Park, read the spelling bee rules to a captivated audience and Woodland Park youth praise dance team provided entertainment.

Judging the spelling bee were Cheryl Morgan, director of the Rotary Southeast Mentor Center; Natalya Bannister, southeast area director of the Boys and Girls Club of Alachua County, and Neal Gillespie, director of the Northwest Unit.

Bannister said the spelling bee was a huge success. “Our kids felt a sense of competence and belonging because they worked hard and they got to see the fruits of their labor come into fruition,” Bannister said.

Keith Blanchard, chief professional officer of the Boys and Girls Club of Alachua County, said the spelling bee served as another way to get the boys and girls from both clubs to interact with each other. He said they’re already playing each other in basketball.

“We’re trying to bring them to interact with each other,” Blanchard said. “They get to know each other, become friends and compare programs.”

Anthony Pierce, organizer of the event and outreach coordinator at Woodland Park, said the spelling bee was the culmination of months-long black history education. “We want them to understand their culture,” Pierce said. “We want them to understand the idea of community beyond Woodland Park while appreciating where they come from.”

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