Spelling Bee Winner, Age 13, Is Aspiring Playwright!

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Students wage battle of words

On March 14, in front of an enthusiastic crowd of families, mentors and staff at the East Harlem Center, Joshua Torres was crowned the winner of the first Children’s Aid Society Spelling Bee. Joshua, 13, attends our East Harlem Center and is truly a champion speller, advancing through the rounds as the words grew increasingly difficult. His love of words and language has led him to write a screenplay that he intends to turn into a musical.

Twenty-four middle school students from the East Harlem, Dunlevy Milbank and Frederick Douglass Centers were challenged in an official spelling bee environment, using the rules of the University of Wisconsin. Tension ran high as the words got progressively more challenging and the field of contestants narrowed.

The students are part of Children’s Aid’s Project LIVE (Learning Through Industry and Volunteer Educators) one-on-one mentoring programming. A group of dedicated volunteer mentors worked with the students as they prepared for the Spelling Bee using the Defined Mind learning program. Defined Mind is a curriculum that utilizes popular contemporary music to help students learn the words they will need to excel on their SATs and to succeed in school and in life.

Jessica Gooden and Leoneesha Serrano, both 13 and attending Dunlevy Milbank Center, placed an impressive second and third, respectively. In addition to trophies, Joshua, Jessica and Leoneesha received gift cards. Every participant was awarded a certificate celebrating his or her involvement in the Spelling Bee.

The students all received hearty applause for their efforts and gained not only a knowledge of spelling, but the confidence to stand in front of a crowd.

After the Spelling Bee, the contestants and their guests were treated to a concert by the Defined Mind Band. Rodney Willie and Avon Marshall performed a few of the songs that the students used to prepare for the Spelling Bee.