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17 to vie for 51st Catholic schools spelling title

Daunte Butler.

By virtue of his previous appearance in the annual Archdiocesan Spelling Contest, Daunte Butler, a fifth grade student at Xavier’s Lower School is considered a frontrunner for the title, but at the end of the day, it’s the person who is on their game who will wear the crown, no matter the fact that they may have had previous experience.

As such, Butler says he’s studying even harder to ensure he’s as prepared as he can be, including using his free time to study words to prepare for the 51st annual Archdiocesan Spelling Contest.

“Last year my experience participating in the bee was a very valuable one,” said Butler, who exited the competition in round six. “I enjoyed learning all the new words. I hope to do better in the competition this year. I like the challenge of participating in the spelling bee because it tests my mind and allows me to enhance my vocabulary.”

Daunte Butler is the younger brother of Donovan Butler, the 2016 Bahamas National Spelling Bee champion.

Butler is among 17 students (Nathaniel Brown, Taniya Kellman and Anthonique Hall representing St. Cecilia; Lauren Scriven, Cianna Johnson and Skylar Burrows representing Sts. Francis & Joseph; Shannon Fawkes, Kaylee Rolle and Jace Colebrooke representing St. Thomas More; Butler, Labron Dickenson and Rafaella Thompson representing Xavier’s Lower School; Joseph-Miles Walker, Freddie Dean and Kharin Archer representing Mary Star of the Sea; Elrine Bongon and Kaiden Knowles representing St. Francis de Sales) who will take to the stage to try to spell their way to the title on Thursday, January 25 at 12:30 p.m. at Seton Hall, Xavier’s College.

Serving as alternates will be Janae Kin and Vashti Culmer, St. Cecilia; Tony Scriven and Kiahna Cooper, Sts. Francis & Joseph; Jerome Bastian and Zoe Anies, St. Thomas More; Rhiaughn Ferguson and Jorden Gibson, Xavier’s Lower School; and Logan Smith, Mary Star of The Sea.

The winner and the second place finisher will represent the Catholic Board of Education at the annual National Spelling Bee.

Last year, St. Cecilia’s School swept the competition, earning the first place overall and second place finish.

The Archdiocesan Spelling Contest is the oldest formal spelling bee in The Bahamas. It is aimed at encouraging academic excellence and a healthy competitive spirit amongst Catholic primary schools.

In 1965 there were 18 schools scattered throughout The Commonwealth of The Bahamas and each functioned independently. At that time the Bahamas Catholic Board of Education did not yet exist. The first superintendent of Catholic Schools, John Darby, led efforts to establish a governing body that would oversee the operation of Catholic education in The Bahamas, resulting in the board. The efforts included encouraging stakeholders to develop programs that would bring the Catholic school communities together to interact, share and learn. One of the most enduring and impactful of the initiatives was the Archdiocesan Spelling Contest.

“We’re delighted to maintain this tradition and use it as a way to enrich the vocabulary of our scholars, and promote healthy competition among schools and peers,” said Claudette Rolle, director of Catholic education.

The origin of this greatly anticipated highlight of the Catholic school calendar is rooted in the area locally known as “The Valley”, where oral history says Myrtle Gaynor, a teacher at St. Thomas More School, learned of Darby’s wish to create opportunities for Catholic schools to come together. It was Gaynor who suggested to Darby that a spelling competition would create an excellent platform for Catholic schools to coalesce and promote a spirit of unity among the schools. As a result, in January 1967, the inaugural Archdiocesan Spelling Contest was held. Although all Catholic primary schools did not participate in the initial competition, it was the impetus for many years of healthy, spirited competition.

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