• 61°

Symmes Valley student wins regional spelling bee, advances to nationals

Just call her a w-i-n-n-e-r.

Felicity Jenkins, a sixth grade student from Symmes Valley Elementary School, took first place at the Sheridan WorldWise Central Ohio Regional Spelling Bee in Columbus over the weekend.

Felicity won 12 rounds and spelled 13 words in the competition Saturday.

“I thought ‘Yay, I did it. I’m going to Nationals!’” Felicity said.

The spelling bee started with a 30-word written test. In all, 107 spellers competed but only 33 advanced past the written test.

Felicity said she was most nervous about the written exam, but even after the test she was nervous as she took her turn each round.

“I was still pretty nervous and in between words I’d walk up there and think am I going to know this?” she said.

Her winning word was prestidigitator, which means magician or one who’s adept at sleight of hand. The sixth grader knew the word immediately because a form of it was from a favorite movie of hers.

“It was actually in the movie ‘Akeelah and the Bee,’ when (the character) won her school spelling bee,” she said. “Her coach asked her to spell it and she got it right.”

Felicity and her family had just watched the movie recently.

“As soon as she heard that (word) she just lit up,” Scott Jenkins, her father and coach, said.

While Felicity has won the Lawrence County Spelling Bee three times and tied for 5th place in last years’ regional competition, the national competition has always been her goal.

“I am just amazed at her young age that she was willing to stay focused on her goal,” Janet Hale, the spelling bee coordinator for Lawrence County, said. “This has been her goal since she’s been in the third grade.”

To meet that goal, Felicity and her father have been working for at least an hour a day to learn the words.

Her mother and father would both make lists of big words for their daughter to study.

Scott Jenkins said his daughter’s ability to spell is a gift.

“It’s a gift from God for her to be able to do this,” he said. “She is gifted. She has such a good memory that it makes it fun to work with her.”

Felicity’s mother, Rhonda Jenkins, compiled lists for her to remember from every subject she could think of, from pasta and cheeses to music and art.

“Then we’d try to read — especially the people that like to use big words. We read all the editorials in the paper and just make notes,” Rhonda Jenkins said.

Most of the other spellers Saturday were from private schools and academies. Rhonda Jenkins said she suspects that none of the other competitors suspected that Felicity would win.

“I’m sure it was totally unexpected,” she said. “They did not know who she was. I’m sure they talk among themselves and they sort of had an idea of who would win and I know she wasn’t on the list.”

Several of the spellers had Latin classes. Others got help from teachers.

“Some of these kids study at school but I really haven’t done that,” Felicity said. “The only time we have is recess and (the teachers) have got to help the other kids.”

But what the school lacked in time to help her study it made up for in support. The students gathered in the school parking lot with signs and flags to see Felicity and her family off to Columbus Friday.

“Thanks to the school for the support even though there’s not a spelling class and we had to do the extra (work),” Scott Jenkins said. “The school was totally supportive with the send-off. That support is not in other schools and it’s been overwhelming.”

Felicity will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee June 2 through 4.

While she’s excited, the sixth grader is trying not to get her hopes up.

“I’m glad I get to go this year but I’m not really expecting to win anything because I watched it and those are really hard words,” she said, adding that some of the spellers there have been competing most of their lives.

The family is also excited to see the national landmarks and memorials in Washington, D.C.

“This is going to be a vacation of a lifetime for us,” Scott Jenkins said. “None of us have ever been.”