Student spells his way to success

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sixth-grader Brandon Ashmore of Lipsey Middle School in Brookhaven had a secret weapon when he won first place in Monday night’s countywide district spelling bee.

Ashmore will go on to represent Lincoln County in the state competition Tuesday, March 19, at the Mississippi Public Broadcasting building in Jackson. He is the son of Tracey Robinson of Brookhaven and Rodney Ashmore of Jackson.

Students from Lincoln County and Brookhaven schools participated in Monday’s spelling bee held in the Bogue Chitto Attendance Center gymnasium.

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Ashmore’s winning word was “exterminate.” The hidden weapon was a token for luck. But, Ashmore backed it up with a real plan – study and practice.

Brandon’s classmates showed their confidence in him and made him a token of good luck, his mother said, a card.

“He had a lucky charm,” Robinson said. “The kids in Mrs. Church’s homeroom class made up a card wishing him luck and saying things like, ‘Way to go Brandon!’ Everyone signed it and he brought it with us to the competition for good luck,” Robinson elaborated.

“Oh, but he studied, too,” she quickly added.

Brandon said he felt like the charm worked, and that it was a little bit of luck and a little bit of hard work.

“The competition made me a little nervous, but I felt pretty good because I practiced,” he said.

“He definitely studied,” Robinson said.

Practice for Brandon included writing down word lists and their definitions, then having a family member call them out to him, his mother explained.

Brandon’s principal at Lipsey School, Sonya Foster, was there to support him.

“We are so excited,” Foster said. “I knew that if anyone at our school could do it, this young man was the one it would be.”

The youngest of the six participants, fourth-grader Sam Allen, made a big impression at the competition and won second place. He is the son of Will and Jenny Allen of Brookhaven.

Sam was quick and confident every time he stepped to the mic. In round five when he and Ashmore were facing off, Allen went out on “sentient” – arguably a hard word at any age.

Ashmore next proved his worthiness by matching it with the correct spelling of “authoritative.” It was then that Ashmore had to spell “exterminate” to win the bee.

Other participants were fifth-grader JaTarya Ferguson of Bogue Chitto Attendance Center, fifth grader Kiaunte Lewis of West Lincoln Attendance Center, eighth-grader Hannah Moore of Alexander Junior High School and Dylan Smith of Loyd Star Attendance Center.

Brookhaven Academy and Enterprise Attendance Center did not participate this year, said event coordinator Susan Price.

The judges for the competition were JoLyn Arnold of Alexander, Janice Davis of West Lincoln and Bogue Chitto’s gifted programs, and Olivia Watts of Loyd Star.

Nancy Butler emceed the event.

The countywide competition was a preliminary to the National Spelling Bee sponsored by the E.W. Scripps Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio. Scripps is a leading media company of television stations and newspapers, and the Scripps Howard News Service.

The National Spelling Bee is the longest running promotional project for education. According to the bee’s website, it’s purpose is to encourage excellence in spelling, increase vocabularies and the correct use of the English language.

The spelling bee started with the collaboration of nine newspapers in 1925. There was a period of inactivity through World War II, but the bee came back strong in 1950 and has grown in popularity thanks to being broadcast on T.V. channels like ABC, NBC, PBS and ESPN.

Scripps Co. administers the bee on a non-profit basis. To learn more about the bee and find study and practice strategies, visit