The Philadelphia Tribune, the nation’s oldest and Greater Philadelphia’s largest newspaper serving the African-American community, together with AmeriHealth Caritas, Wells Fargo, and The School District of Philadelphia sponsored the 21st annual Scripps Regional Spelling Bee competition on Saturday, March 7.

Dozens of students competed for a chance to win. The event was held at the School of The Future, 4021 Parkside Ave.

The contestants, who ranged from the 5th grade to the 8th, competed for a chance to win a computer and an opportunity to compete at the national bee that is held in Washington, D.C., in May. Merriam-Webster was also a prize donor. The contestants had to first be chosen by representatives of their schools or win a spelling bee hosted by their respective schools.

During the competition, fellow students, friends and hopeful parents sat in nervous silence as the students were called to the microphone and given words to spell by the pronouncer, Amy T. Holdsman, founder and president of Essential Leadership.

The top three winners were Tiphanie Chan, Philadelphia Academy Charter School (Champion), Xian Han Chen, Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School (1st Runner Up) and Nina B. Quiambao, St. Helena-Incarnation Catholic School (2nd Runner Up).

It was the word “surveillance” that took down the runner-up and from it Chang, a 6th grader, emerged as the Philadelphia Tribune/Scripps Regional Spelling Bee champion.

“I feel tired, amazed and really excited,” said Chang, when asked how she felt about her victory after the challenge. Chang was surrounded by proud friends and family members who greeted her onstage after her victory was announced. As the first place winner, Chang not only earned an all-expense-paid trip to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. in May, but also a trophy, an award certificate, a one year membership to Britannica Online and a Dell laptop.

“I am proud of her, I’m excited, I’m nervous and I am happy that this is all over with,” said Kim Chang, her mother. Chang said her daughter worked diligently for five weeks preparing for the spelling Bee and received a great deal of support from relatives.

“This also reminds her that she has to study and keep going over the vocabulary list over and over again. I would call out the words and she would do the spelling and we would keep doing this over and over again,” Chang’s mother said.

Kim Chang said she sat in the audience and prayed, hoping her daughter would get each letter right as the pronouncer uttered the words. In the end, it paid off.

“My heart was racing, I was very happy and now we are going to celebrate,” she said.

One of the relatives that helped to encourage Chang was Michael Barrett Jr., Chang’s uncle.

“It was quite brutal at times watching her onstage, but she seemed very composed and none of the words seem to surprise her too much — which was very gratifying knowing how much she prepared for this,” said Barrett, when asked how he felt watching his niece compete onstage.

Barrett said Chang committed herself to her studies and did so with great discipline prior to the Spelling Bee.

“I know she went through a tremendous amount of studying, every time I would go over and ask, ‘Where’s Tiphanie?’ she would be upstairs studying,” he said.

If preparing for the regional spelling bee was hard work for the students, it was no walk in the park for the organizers and planners of the event, either.

“It’s been weeks preparing; we work with the school district in order to get the names for the students — it takes a few weeks,” said Donna Clark of the Philadelphia Tribune and moderator for the spelling bee.

Contact staff writer Larry Miller at (215) 893-5782 or lmiller@phillytrib.com

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