Top School: Pupils of top-finishing school Westport SDA Primary School show off their impressive trophy as Margaret Warner-Julien, left, and Westport SDA teacher Keisha Sargeant share the special moment.

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Zola is champion speller

It was an all-round display of confidence and composure, as 27 primary school pupils recently competed in the finals of the fifth annual Independent Credit Union Primary School Spelling Bee Competition at the Carenage Community Centre.

Emerging top of the competitors was Zola Medina, of Crystal Stream Government Primary School. Joining her at the spelling summit were Westport SDA classmates Hadiya Lawrence and Cherisse Johnson, in second and third place, respectively; with Oya Harper, of Cocorite Government, taking fourth spot.

Medina was ecstatic about her victory: "I am very active in school events so this is another trophy that I am proud to win for my school and my parents. I learned so much in preparing for this competition and I now feel more confident about my spelling and vocabulary. This was a wonderful experience and I will help students from my school prepare so that we will win again next year."

The Spelling Bee was developed and implemented by the Independent Credit Union's education and social committee, with energy company bp Trinidad and Tobago on board as the main sponsor.

Encouraging the participants was Margaret Warner-Julien, government and stakeholder adviser, bpTT. "We partnered in facilitating this Spelling Bee because it aligns with our aspiration to positively impact on the lives of every citizen. It also falls in line with bpTT's commitment to supporting education, especially for our young people. I just want the participants to know that they are all winners and you make us all very proud," Warner-Julien said.

Participants were drawn from Standard Three and Four classes from nine primary schools from Carenage and environs, competing for the right to be top speller. The Spelling Bee finals featured four rounds, with the best performers progressing. The initial rounds comprised words supplied to the pupils beforehand, while the final round required the pupils to spell "new" words randomly selected in a "sudden death" format.

The exercise is the brainchild of William Ryan, who is the credit union's vice-president and chairman of its education and social committee.

"This competition started with just four schools and has grown every year. We have made many improvements based on feedback from principals, teachers and parents. Apart from the academic benefit, the kids gain confidence and self-esteem and the entire community is uplifted. I have to be honest and say that without bpTT none of this would be possible. With their support, we expect that this competition will keep growing and spread the benefit to more students and schools," Ryan explained.

This year, there was also support from other stakeholders, including CUNA Mutual Group, PPM Autoparts, Holiday Foods and Bermudez.

Keisha Sargeant, teacher and coach for Westport SDA, who were rewarded as the top performing school in the competition, praised the efforts of everyone who made the competition possible: "Our students worked hard and it's good to see their success rewarded with top finishes. The competition was really close this year and the standard shown by all the competitors was high, which is a tribute to the hard work put in by the students, teachers and parents. We are grateful to bpTT and the Independent Credit Union for providing a platform for our young people to shine bright."

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