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Local school spellers look toward nationals

Kunal Sah holds his trophy after winning the Southeastern Utah Regional Spelling Bee in 2006.

The Sun Advocate and Emery County Progress has come to the rescue of students wishing to compete in a nationwide academic competition.

This year the Sun Advocate and Emery County Progress has agreed to sponsor a Regional Spelling Bee, run by the Southeast Educational Service Center (SESC), for students in the school districts of Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan. The newspapers will then sponsor the winner of this regional competition, along with a parent, to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

For 25 years the Deseret News sponsored the statewide spelling bee, sending the winner on to compete in the national bee in Washington , D.C.

In 2002, Deseret News was extremely busy with the Winter Olympics and dropped the state spelling bee altogether. Over the next couple of years Utah was the only state not represented at the national competition.

A couple of years ago, the Provo Daily Herald was approached to sponsor a spelling bee and send the winner to nationals. They agreed, but rather than a statewide competition, the Daily Herald sponsored a regional spelling bee for the students of the Utah County area, and sent the winner to Washington. Again, southeastern Utah was left out.

The SESC is one of four rural service centers set up by the Utah Office of Education to help the rural schools of Utah receive the same opportunities as the more urban schools along the Wasatch Front. At the time SESC applied to sponsor a student from this region, but were denied.

The national rules state that the sponsor must be a major newspaper.

Last year Julie Taylor of SESC approached Richard Shaw (publisher of the Sun Advocate and Emery County Progress) about sponsoring the Southeastern Regional Spelling Bee and subsequently sponsoring the winner at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

Shaw agreed to lend the name and support of the papers to this endeavor, and began making contacts and filing all the necessary paperwork. The approval from Scripps came in January 2006, and the process for finding the top spelling students from each district began.

SESC has been a part of the district bees in southeast region (Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan) for 25 years. When the State Bee was discontinued, SESC established a regional spelling bee for the four district area.

The top three or four students from each district were invited to this event, but the students, teachers and parents had been disappointed that the overall winner of the Regional Bee did not have the opportunity to go further.

That changed last year when, with the two newspaper's sponsorship, the area was able to send Kanul Sah of Green River to the nations capitol for the nationals. He and his father spent an entire week there with expenses paid by his Emery School District. It was an exciting experience and SESC was proud to be a part of it.

This year the season began in mid-January with Emery and Grand already having held their district bees. San Juan School District holds their bee today with Carbon's on Feb. 21 and Pinnacle Canyon holding theirs on Feb. 22.

The Southeast Regional Bee will be held in Green River on March 1, with the winner going to the National Spelling Bee between May 27 and June 1.

The event is televised on national cable television and so local residents will be able to keep up with the action that is taking place in Washington, D.C.

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