Hinds County resident Desiree Roby makes it to 3rd round of national spelling bee

Desiree Roby makes it to 3rd round of national spelling bee

I’ve been too busy to watch the Scripps National Spelling Bee on ESPN and this afternoon, I wondered how Desiree Roby was doing. Desiree, a 6th grade homeschool student from Clinton, advanced to the third round. Here are her results from the competition. To see how other spellers fared, visit http://www.spellingbee.com.

I interviewed her and her mother Robin for a Hinds Ledger article and posted the full interview on my blog. Read it here and learn how Desiree and other young spellers prepared for the local, state and national competition. Kudos to Desiree for representing Mississippi in the spelling bee! I’m sure she will return next year and go further.


Presenting the 11 Championship Finalists for the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee! The spelling bee resumes tonight on stage at 8 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
39 Grace Remmer, Florida
41 Christal Schermeister, Florida
44 Nikitha Chandran, Florida
64 Pranav Sivakumar, Illinois
91 Vanya Shivashankar, Kansas
115 Amber Born, Massachusetts
156 Sriram Hathwar, New York
163 Arvind Mahankali, New York
238 Chetan Reddy, Texas
242 Syamantak Payra, Texas
256 Vismaya Kharkar, Utah


Post election review

Election Day can be a journalist’s dream or nightmare, depending on his/her feelings about politics. Depending on the candidates, the issues and the seats open for the taking, my excitement level on Election Day can be rather low. I don’t care for politics, but local elections tend to have more effect on me. For example, I live in the city of Ridgeland and have voted in almost every municipal election since 2010. I used to cover city government in Ridgeland for The Madison County Herald (2010-11) and it was important to know the alderman board members, who wanted to run for the positions and what they could bring to the city I live in. And if the races are tight from the start of campaigning to the finish, I’m eager to get out and vote and write election stories from the polls and the results.

This municipal primary election was especially exciting for me when it came to the city of Canton. I covered city government there as a reporter for The Herald (2010-11) and got to know the Mayor and Alderman Board pretty well throughout the volatile political dealings between the Mayor William Truly and board members. For months, I would hear stories from all kinds of people about a much needed change in city government and leadership and how much people looked forward to hitting the polls. So, I eagerly waited until 2013 came around because the buzz was circulating about prospective mayoral candidates wanting to replace Truly and some aldermen they felt were not getting the job done.

I had my mind made up on who would go to runoff after the Democratic primary and boy was I wrong! I knew there would be a runoff between Truly and State Farm Insurance Agent Arnel Bolden or Truly and small business owner and popular community activist Greg Green. I learned a little about Republican candidate Chip Matthews, owner of Mama Mia’s pizza on the square (he beat Lorraine Levy by a landslide in the May 7 primary). It turns out that Greg Green came in third place behind Bolden and Truly, and former mayor and Canton councilman Fred Esco Jr. came in last, much to my surprise.

The ballot count took nearly three days due to machine failure, hand counting and in my opinion, slow-working elections commissioners. Bolden held a 10-vote lead and only two aldermen held on to their seats — Ward 1 Alderman Rodriguez Brown (currently being challenged by opponent Ray Rosamond) and Ward 6 Eric Gilkey, who ran unopposed. Now Madison County District Attorney Michael Guest is looking into voting irregularities reported during the May 7 primary.

In the weeks leading up to runoff, Bolden and Truly hit the pavement to convince voters to return to the polls May 21 and I felt like either man had the chance. In his first term, Truly helped bring millions of dollars in economic development to the city, tried to improve living conditions (many citizens believe he has done opposite) and supported the Canton Public School District. He’s also a physician and served on the alderman board. I came to know Bolden when he started his campaign and would tell me about various events for his scholarship program, I Have A Dream Fund, and involvement in local nonprofit organizations and supporting the youth. Both men remained visible to voters through social media and local media stayed on the race.

When the primary runoff came, voter turnout was slightly lower (to be expected) but people made their way to their ward precincts to cast ballots. It was unbearably hot and humid. The results of the runoff were also a welcome surprise to many as Bolden won by a few hundred (machine) votes and Ward 5 Alderman Reuben Myers nearly lost his seat. Read the most recent results article here.

Once again, ballot counting dragged along on May 21 as the elections commission slowly went through the ballots — mind you, less than 3,000 people voted. In their defense, hundreds of absentee ballots and dozens of affidavit ballots can take a while to go through. The commission finished counting on Wednesday despite an altercation late Tuesday that led to a member being arrested for disturbing the peace and other charges.

Needless to say, Cantonians wanted change and they made their decision on Tuesday. What’s next for the June 4 general election? Arnel Bolden faces off with Chip Matthews and the alderman races for wards 2 and 7 will be decided. I, like most people, have questions going into the final stretch: Will Chip Matthews prevail and become the first white mayor of Canton in 19 years? Will Arnel Bolden deliver on his campaign promises? Will the next Board of Aldermen have a better working relationship to meet the needs of Cantonians? How much shifting will occur in city personnel, especially in the police and fire departments (considering the unpopular police and fire chiefs)? Will the entire elections commission be replaced? Will the people and leaders of Canton settle their differences and come together and create a better environment for businesses and youth who will be the future leaders?

Only time will tell.

“Because of Medgar Evers…”

As the 50th anniversary of the murder of Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers approaches, numerous events are being held in Jackson to commemorate his legacy. The efforts of Evers and countless others that fought for civil rights of all Americans resonate in today’s society. Sadly, racism still exists and division hampers the ability of our communities to thrive and grow. But, the arts remains one of the best ways for people of all ages to express themselves. Arts helps young people stay out of trouble and find their own creative niche. I, too, love the arts and what it means to my life. Singing, dancing and writing are three things I love most!

Evers’s legacy and the arts back in the civil rights movement up to now were discussed in a panel last month at Jackson State University for the 7th annual Creative Arts Festival. The panel featured National Book Award Winner and author Jesmyn Ward and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Leonard Pitts with The Miami Herald, Freedom Rider Joan Trumpauer Mulholland and Evers’s neice Courtney Cockrell, attorney with Morgan & Morgan Law Firm in Jackson.

Here are memorable quotes from the panel, and enjoy the pictures and video of Ridgeland High alum Kristen Dupard reciting poem about Medgar Evers.

Pitts on what inspires activism: “I am a storyteller and I believe there are stories that have to be told. Who we are as Americans, how we treat each other. The arts are a component of social activism.”

Mulholland on the arts in the Civil Rights Movement: “Photojournalists work was done with great risk to their own safety. The arts is needed to do what’s necessary for the math and sciences. Artists today should insert themselves into social activism to make a real difference.”

Ward on making a statement in the arts: “Make people realize how human we are. Something that needs attention is to…encourage young people to pursue the arts.

Cockrell on how we can exemplify Evers’s legacy: “It is important to not have fear in whatever you do, and be true to your message. Everything you do affects more than just you.”

One panel for the Creative Arts Festival (l to r) Leonard Pitts, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, Jesmyn Ward and Courtney Cockrell.

A panel for the Creative Arts Festival (l to r) Leonard Pitts, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, Jesmyn Ward and Courtney Cockrell.

Courtney Cockrell is the niece of Medgar Evers, representing their family in the panel.

Courtney Cockrell is the niece of Medgar Evers, representing their family in the panel.

Pitts addresses the audience at JSU.

Pitts addresses the audience at JSU.

Mulholland speaks on her experience as a Freedom Rider.

Mulholland speaks on her experience as a Freedom Rider.

Ward gave good insight into her life as a writer and how the arts are vital to the community.

Ward gave good insight into her life as a writer and how the arts are vital to the community.

Metro area young professionals: See Joel Bomgar speak at global entrepreneur luncheon

WTCBomgarPass along to any young professionals you know. I’ve never seen or heard Joel Bomgar speak, but Brad McMullan is an excellent panel moderator (past Zip39 CEO Forums) and host. If I can’t make it, I hope you can because Bomgar and McMullan will surely give good nuggets of knowledge.

The event is 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on Thursday, May 16 at The Country Club of Jackson, 345 St. Andrews Drive, Jackson. MS World Trade Center members pay $45, non-members pay $50. It costs $300 for a table of eight and students/young professionals under 40 only pay $25 (good deal!).

For reservations or more information, visit http://www.mswtc.org or call Tracy Diez, (601) 353-0909, tdiez@mswtc.org.


Sign up for the Natchez Trace Century Ride and Bike Rodeo

From Ridgeland Parks and Recreation: Go the distance this spring at the Natchez Trace Century Ride in Ridgeland and enjoy a scenic bike ride through the beautiful countryside in Madison and Rankin counties, then finish up on the historic Natchez Trace Parkway.

The ride will take place 7 a.m. on Saturday and will start at the Ridgeland Recreational Center. With your choice of distances from 25, 50, 62 and 100 miles, it is perfect for all ages and ability levels. Sign up the whole family. Routes have changed this year, so be sure to visit the event website for an interactive map.

A registration fee of $45 includes Welcome Party on Friday evening, ride, event t-shirt post-ride meal and post-ride social. We have partnered with Ridgeland Tourism Commission this year to add “Ridgeland Rockin’ after the Ride,” our post-ride social. During the post-ride social RTC will give away a new Roubaix Bike. Only registered Natchez Trace Century Ride participants are eligible for drawing.

For more information on the ride, contact Ridgeland Recreation and Parks at 601-853-2011 or go to www.ridgelandms.org. The Natchez Trace Century Ride is presented by Indian Cycle and The Bike Rack.

Bring your bike and helmet and join Jayce Powell and friends from Indian Cycle 9-11 a.m. on Saturday at Old Trace Park for the annual Bike Rodeo. Activities will include an obstacle course, bike decorating, a bike parade and other fun bike activities. This year’s Bike Rodeo will be held in conjunction with the Natchez Trace Century Ride. Registration is NOT required for the Bike Rodeo but IS required to participate in the Natchez Trace Century Ride.

For more information on the Bike Rodeo, contact Jayce Powell at Indian Cycle, 601-956-8383. For more information on the Natchez Trace Century Ride, visit www.natchezcenturyride.racesonline.com or call 601-853-2011.

(I rode in the Century Ride two years ago. Aside from a sore body, me and dad had a great time!)

My father Richard and I on our first and only Century Ride in 2011.

My father Richard and I on our first and only Century Ride in 2011.

It wasn't easy taking this picture while riding on The Trace. We did 50 miles!

It wasn’t easy taking this picture while riding on The Trace. We did 50 miles!

My pops with Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee before the start of the Century Ride in 2011.

My pops with Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee before the start of the Century Ride in 2011.

Full interview with 2013 Hinds County AND Mississippi Spelling Bee winner Desiree Roby and her mother Robin Roby

If you ever read the Hinds Ledger nondaily, you can see there isn’t much space. It’s overtaken by advertisements! While the stories aren’t posted online (I don’t understand why, but I digress) I wanted to share the entire interview with you so you can learn more about Desiree’s experiences in spelling bees and preparing for the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. this month. Desiree is in the sixth grade and is homeschooled. This is a lengthy interview, so make sure you have a drink in hand or food to eat while reading. 🙂

Desiree Roby, of Clinton, after winning the state spelling bee in March.

Desiree Roby, of Clinton, after winning the state spelling bee in March.

Let’s start from when you wanted to get into spelling bee competitions: “It first started when was 9 years old and at that point, it was really going to be to see how well I was able to do. Then after I went to the Christian Home Educators Connection spelling bee and won that, it started to get a little more serious after that. That was when I was 9 years old.”

Robin: “You have to win your local spelling bee first before you can go to the county. We were just trying it out.”

And when it got more serious for you, what was the next step? “Then I just began to study hard and to have fun. Then after that I went to Hinds County and was knocked out of the second round with the word ‘khan.’”

When you got out of the second round, you just wanted to keep on going just to win? “At that point after that, it was maybe just try it again to see if I could go farther than the second round. And actually the beginning was to make sure I get through the first step and the second, which would be the Hinds County (spelling bee).”

So your second time around, how far did you get? “The second time, I got past the second round and then after that, it went many more rounds and then I finally won and the person that came in second, we became really good friends as well.”

How long ago was this one? “This would have been last year.”

What was the winning word for that one? “It was ‘fiery.’ My head is so full of words, somehow I forget that one.”

After you won that one, of course you felt great. What was that experience like? “Well, it was relief that part was over so I was able to take a break for a little while and then it was back to spelling. And the next step would have been state (spelling bee).”

And you went to state in 2012, so how did that go? “With it being my first time, I would have been fine placing in any spot. Then, as it continually went on, I became more serious and my mom became more serious as well. So, that year I placed second.”

And what word did you spell when you got to that point? “Immiserization.”

And in the following year, you won (state): “It was funny was that I can very plainly remember that one. Right before the real championship, the word was ‘brilliantine.’ And that has a funny spelling behind it. I spelled it correctly and she said that I had gotten it wrong. Then she looked it up and found out I was right. After that one, I was like I got it right. Then the next word was ‘dowager.’ The way I figured it out was ‘age’ so, ‘dowager.’”

When you’re up on stage and you’re spelling words, how nervous are you? “Sometimes you just want to break a sweat, but then you just have to relax afterward. You just have to make sure you can calm yourself down because when you’re not calm, you can sometimes like, be thinking another word when the word they really ask you was the word you’re supposed to spell. And some of the ways I like to think is tapping my feet or signing the letters in the word. Whatever helps you I guess. You can ask for the part of speech, use it in a sentence. You can ask them to repeat the word if you didn’t hear it correctly the first time. You can ask for the language of origin and I believe you can still ask for the definition.”

How do you prepare for a spelling bee? Tell me how you are preparing for nationals? “Right now I’m preparing by just reviewing some of the words that I already know and then going over new words that we just received. And now with the new change, which is you have to know the definitions to these words, I’m learning how to spell the word along with the definition of the word. What’s really nice is they give you games on their website that you can be able to remember the questions they would give you. There’s two rounds where you have to know the definition of those two words they give you. If you know those, I believe they are 50 percent of your score if you get them both correct.”

Robin: “Before you get to what we see on the TV round, there are several preliminary rounds. And the first round is a written round, so they hear a word over a computer and they have type the correct spelling of the word. And this year, they added where they have two vocabulary questions so they’ll give you a word and it’s multiple choice. That’s part of your score and then they have some type of scoring system where they take the top scorers and those are the ones you see on TV on ESPN. Your round two is on stage and it’s done on internet screen. So they really streamline it and also give them a chance to stand on stage and see and get practice.”

 And the kinds of words you are spelling, what’s the highest level they go up to? “Very technical and very advanced. Some of them have three silent letters so you have to be able to remember where the silent letters are and on top of that be able to spell the word correctly and not put (the letters) in the wrong place.”

Robin: “It seems like, there’s a lot of medical terminology and scientific terminology, words you haven’t heard. A lot of it, too, is understanding how words are put together, that’s why the kids are able to ask for the language of origin.”

I’m trying to imagine how you could just have all these words in your head and from memory you can just spell them so well. “I tease people when I say if you just crack open my head letters will probably fall out.”

Robin: “And the thing about it, I know how to spell but when it’s under that pressure and then having to remember where you are in a word because if the word is ten letters long and you started to spell…because if they make one mistake, they’re done.”

Desiree: “It’s fun but you have to continually process every single word and you review it so it’s in your head thoroughly. Sometimes I see the whole word, sometimes I see one letter after another come up.”

You only have a couple years of experience in spelling bees locally, so what does it feel like to go to nationals? “It’s going to be really fun just seeing all of the other people that are going to be there, and just making new friends. You can relate to the stories about I had to spell this word; we all have one thing in common, we enjoy spelling.”

Is this something you’ve enjoyed since you were little, since you learned how to write and read? Why do you enjoy it so much? “It really has been. This just gives you a chance to learn new things. Some words that you thought you knew the definition to, now you know the new definition and say if you didn’t know how to spell them, now you know how to spell. It’s just learning new things that will help you later on in life. To concentrate and to be able to focus on one thing at a time, just to make sure that I learn and not just skim over, but to learn it thoroughly.”

Was that the overall goal when you started getting into spelling bees, to have fun? “I just really wanted to have fun but after the second year I thought it was going to be more than just not only helping in that one area but in the rest of my schoolwork.”

Since you are a big speller now, everywhere you go do you look for words? “Some words I might be familiar with. There’s a restaurant here called Hibachi and that is one of the words that is on the list they gave me. Look at the words you’ve seen before and go, ‘I know that word now.’”

Robin: “I think it’s exciting for her just to know that she can represent our state. With that comes responsibility and so she has to study and some of the things that she may like to do at night she doesn’t get a chance to do because she’s spelling.”

Desiree: “I spend about an hour and a half each day except Sunday working on these words. And the rest of the time is just working and playing and resting and spelling and working and so on. I play a lot of sports. I play soccer, softball. I’m also on American Heritage Girls, it’s a Christian girl scouts group. I’m on the LEGO League robotics team and it’s really nice because we won the state title this year. I participate in children’s choir at my church. And I also participate in the Bible Bee.”

Robin: “The funny thing is, this year I actually have never seen her spell. My head is always down when she spells.”

Do they give you a list of words they are going to ask you (to spell)? “They give you a list of words like German, Greek, Dutch, Latin, Slavic…and so on, and you have to learn all of those words. It takes you a long time to make sure that you know the words. After you know them you’re reviewing them so they are fresh in your mind.”

Robin: “For the local competitions in the county and the state, there’s a group of words that Scripps gives. At the state bee, once they get to a certain number of rounds they go to an off-list.”

What’s your word base? “Right now, I’m going through 400 words…you have to know how to spell them, you have to know the definition and go over those every once in a while. And you have to make sure your memory is right and can test the words they give you.”

Are you going to give her a send off party before she goes? Robin: “All the fun comes after. Up until that time it’s serious business.”

Roby winning the Hinds County spelling bee.

Roby after winning the Hinds County spelling bee. Edison Brown was the runner-up. (I think that’s her lucky spelling dress…will she wear it to nationals?)