Local champs set to win, place, spell

Regional winner goes to Scripps National Spelling Bee in May
by: DENISE FARWELL, Eighth-grader Minh Hao Tran will represent Northeast Portland’s Gregory Heights Middle School on Saturday. During a science lesson this week on the integumentary system, one of her classmates jokingly asked her to spell it.

If anyone's determined to make it to this year's National Spelling Bee, it's Shelley Clark, the Tigard girl who became the first homeschooled student from the Portland metro area to make it to the national bee last year.

Much to her disappointment, she was eliminated in the third round in Washington, D.C. But this year - in preparation for the fourth annual Portland Tribune/Comcast Regional Spelling Bee on Saturday - Clark, now 13, has 365 more days of studying under her belt.

After getting knocked out of last year's bee, 'she started studying that evening' said her mother, Rosalyn Newhouse. 'She's been completely focused, spending an average two to three hours a day since then' on word lists, spelling notebooks and the like.

Other spellers throughout the region have been preparing equally as hard for this year's bee, presented by OnPoint Community Credit Union. About 48 students are expected to participate from Multnomah County and Washington County middle schools, both public and private schools, as well as students in alternative programs and homeschooled children.

The event is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Hollywood Theatre, 4122 N.E. Sandy Blvd. It is free and open to the public, but there is a suggested donation of classroom supplies to benefit the nonprofit Schoolhouse Supplies, which provides teachers with free supplies that have been donated by the community.

Since it opened in January 2000 as a project of the Portland Schools Foundation, Schoolhouse Supplies has provided supplies worth a net retail value of $4 million to all 130 of Portland's public schools.

Judges for the regional bee this year will be Pam Grignon, who coordinates the district's talented and gifted program in the middle schools; Julie Winder, a Forest Park Elementary teacher; and city Commissioner Sam Adams. Oregon Public Broadcasting radio host April Baer will pronounce the words for the spellers for a second year.

'It's not just about winning the big prize,' Grignon said. 'It's about being involved.' She said studying for the bee is getting easier, with practice sites like www.spellingbee.com, sponsored by the E.W. Scripps Co., which administers the national bee. And she said that with the bee's growing popularity, it's now not a challenge to find participants.

Minh Hao Tran, 13, an eighth-grader who will represent Gregory Heights Middle School on Saturday, said she's ready to outdo her performance two years ago, when she took 11th place.

'My mom thinks it's a great opportunity for me, if I can win and go to the national one, she thinks there'll be some great life experiences for me and it will expand my vocabulary,' says Tran, who came to Portland from Vietnam with her family at age 1 and speaks Vietnamese at home.

When she gets on stage, she admits she will be a bit nervous. 'But I'll take a breath, and tell myself no matter what I'll try my hardest, and my friends and family will be proud of me no matter how I do.'

Saturday's winner qualifies for the national bee, set for May 30 and May 31 in Washington, D.C.

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