Written by Janae Babineaux, proud corps member serving on the Albemarle Foundation team at Merrydale Elementary School.

Thanks to the hard work of the administration, teachers, students, and the City Year team at Merrydale Elementary School, the school's Commons Area was transformed into the Competition Arena!

At 9 AM on Thursday, October 2, 2014, Merrydale Elementary School held it's first ever Jag Spelling Bee! Students from the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades participated in individual class competitions, and the winners from each homeroom went on to compete in the school-wide competition. In the days leading up to the Spelling Bee, students met in the afternoons to practice with City Year. Corps member Cassidy Bowers said that she felt the spelling bee gave students an opportunity to shine, and brought out a side to them she had never yet seen! It was truly a treat to see kids practicing their spelling words in between lessons and pushing themselves to learn advanced vocabulary.

On the day of the Jag Spelling Bee, teachers exhibited their school pride by sporting black and yellow! The energy was high and thanks to a lot of helping hands, the Commons Area became the Competition Arena! Principal Boudreaux-Allen welcomed the crowd as parents, family members, and visitors filed in. 26 students waited anxiously for the competition to begin as their peers gathered to show their support.

Corps Member Amber Curry offered competitors a good-luck hug before the Spelling Bee began.

To cure some of those competition jitters, I sat and chatted with the competitors about their favorite part of being in the spelling bee. It was no surprise that their answers were delightful. Many of them simply said that they loved spelling words and having fun! One student even said, "It's exciting! If you win, you get to go to other schools to compete." I must say, I felt a true connection to the 3rd grade student who said her favorite part was to be on the microphone! I remember as a child holding the microphone and feeling like the equivalent of clasping pure gold. Overall, though, the students felt the Spelling Bee was a fun competition with the added bonus of learning some awesome new words.

Katie Scott, a student in Mrs. Hawkin's 3rd grade class, will advance to the next round after correctly spelling "science."

To kick off the competition, 3rd grader John Thomas led the students in the Pledge of Allegiance and the Jaguar Pledge. After each participant got the chance to use that golden microphone to state their name and homeroom teacher, the competition was underway. During the first round, students impressed the audience by spelling words such as "ploy", "prefix", and "lasso". In the second round, 18 students were able to continue on to spell words such as "empower" and "mortal". With the elimination of 12 students in that round, the third round began with just 6 competitors left. The competition was hot, and looking out into the crowd, it was heartwarming to see the competitor's classmates silently celebrate each time they were correct and were able to continue on. The final 3 competitors had an incredible last round, amazing their parents and peers by spelling words such as "scorpion", "cowlick", "ledge", "gradual", and "yonder". 

But in the end, there could only be one winner. Step aside Beyonce-- because there is a new Queen Bee! Katie Scott, a third grader in Mrs. Hawkin's class, took the Spelling Bee crown by correctly spelling "science". She was all smiles as she embraced her parents for a celebratory hug. 

City Year's In-Kinding Coordinator Amber Curry and Team Leader Tyler Wands setting up the table of goodie-bags, cupcakes, and Kool-Aid Jammers donated to the spelling contestants by a generous family from Lafayette, Louisiana. 

After the competition, each student who participated got to take home a goodie-bag and enjoy a sweet afternoon treat. They also received a certificate of achievement and a nametag keepsake. The students were able to walk the halls with their heads held high and their nametags hanging proudly around their necks. 

Math Instructional Specialist Trina King, ELA Instructional Specialist DaShannon Cannon, ELA interventionists Deanna Auzanne and Coliea Rendell, City Year corps member Amber Curry, Principal Tana Boudreaux-Allen, and Assistant Principal Sherna Lumar pose with the Jag Spelling Bee Champion, Katie Scott. 

The Jag Spelling Bee was a huge success, thanks especially to Mrs. Rendell and Mrs. Auzanne and corps members Amber Curry, Kim Ratte, and Tavidee Hoskins. The Merrydale family came together to showcase the incredible talent of our students and to provide them with an empowering opportunity. City Year was honored to help orchestrate such a wonderful event and cheer on our students as we all continue to #makebetterhappen!

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