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May 3, 2013

Fort Irwin eighth grader to compete at Scripps National Spelling Bee

Zerin Wetzel plays the flute during a Story Time event for children at Fort Irwin, April 24. The well-rounded eighth grader at Fort Irwin Middle School won five spelling bee competitions to qualify for an appearance at the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Her favorite subject in school is language arts and has an interest in being a writer or a teacher.

Because she is a voracious reader, perhaps it’s no surprise that Zerin Wetzel, 13 years old, is a regional spelling bee champ and scheduled to compete at the national level, May 27.

Zerin will be attending the Scripps National Spelling Bee with her dad, Maj. Kevyn Wetzel, chief of orthodontics with United States Army Dental Clinic Command, here.

Zerin’s road to Washington D.C., began with success at Fort Irwin Middle School, where she attends the eighth grade. She placed second at the district level and went on to win a regional event. Her last triumph qualified her for a trip to the nation’s capital. She is nervous about the competition, but has an ease with words she has attained through reading.

“I just read a lot, so I have a lot of words in my memory,” Zerin said.

The self-described avid reader has completed all the “Harry Potter” books and the “Lord of the Rings” series. Her favorite subject in school is language arts and she has an interest in being a fantasy writer.

“Since literature and language arts are Zerin’s favorite subjects, it follows that spelling comes pretty naturally for her,” her father explained. “Zerin has always enjoyed doing things that she is good at, so even though she has had to overcome initial nervousness, she likes the challenge of the spelling bee.”

According to the Web site of the Bee (as the competition is affectionately known) the event is the nation’s largest and longest-running educational promotion, administered on a not-for-profit basis by The E.W. Scripps Company and local spelling bee sponsors in the United States, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Department of Defense Schools in Europe; also, the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea. The purpose of the program is to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts, and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives.

The Bee’s Web site provides students with some preparation tips, two of which are:

1) Read great books. You’ll be entertained while you effortlessly improve your spelling and increase your vocabulary.

2) Scour the dictionary in search of words to stump your parents and teachers.

Zerin’s training regimen includes reading the dictionary and her dad explained that he has helped set up a study schedule and encourages her to tackle study aids a little at a time.

“We know that no matter how things go at the national bee, if she has made a strong effort to prepare, she will be pleased with her performance,” Zerin’s dad stated.

Wilson Malana, Zerin’s eighth grade social studies and history teacher at FIMS, has helped three students (including his two sons) who have participated at the Bee. He has provided Zerin with information on the competition and on the type of review materials she would find useful. Malana mentioned that Zerin’s love of reading is a strength that should help her; her academics are also an indicator of a commitment to doing well.

“She’s been in my history classes for two years now,” Malana explained. “It is within this capacity that I observed her impeccable discipline and organization. She is one student who would always turn in outstanding work ahead of everyone. Her dedication to excellence is truly admirable.”

Zerin displays a modest demeanor, but she appreciates a desire to perform well.

“I’m expecting real tough words,” Zerin said. “But at least, I want to get past the first round.”

Dad is proud of Zerin for her composure and perseverance in her spelling bee endeavors and achievements. He was a little shocked when he found out she won the regional (he was unable to attend), he said.

“Even though Zerin is very talented, I know there are a lot of kids regionally who are likely just as talented and motivated,” dad said. “I’m excessively proud of Zerin. Competitions like the National Spelling Bee are intense and the competitions leading up to it are just as nerve-racking. Zerin has shown a lot of poise and determination that makes me very proud.”

Zerin is enthusiastic about visiting Washington again. Having been there at age four, she doesn’t remember much. Dad and daughter are the only ones scheduled to go from the family. The young role-model is older sister to five siblings, who will remain home with mom.

“Zerin is very excited and looking forward to going to Washington, D.C.,” dad said. “I think she is just as excited to see the National Capitol and other historic sites as she is to participate in the National Spelling Bee itself.”

Get to know the competition

This year, 281 spellers will participate. They originate from the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe; as well as the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea.

• Bee Week 2013 marks the first visit to the nation’s capital for 97 spellers
• Tara Singh, of Louisville, Ky., is the youngest speller in this year’s competition at age 8
• The spellers range in age from 8 to 14 years old, but 89 percent are between the ages of 12 and 14
• The program is open to students who have neither turned 16 nor passed beyond the eighth grade




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