Winners Benae Dawkins Fitzpatrick (fourth left front row) and Deveshi Varidani (third left front row) are holding up their trophies along with the runners up in the two categories. They are flanked by Finance Minister Ardwell Irion, judges, announcer and representatives of the St. Maarten Guyanese Association and Tzu Chi Foundation.
PHILIPSBURG--St. Dominic Primary pupil Benae Dawkins Fitzpatrick and Methodist Agogic Center (MAC) Browlia F. Mailliard campus pupil Deveshi Varidani won the two categories of the St Maarten Guyanese Association’s fourth Courtney Gibson Memorial Spelling Bee Competition after a nail-biting finish at the University of St. Martin (USM) on Saturday evening.
Some 37 spellers competed in the two categories. Fitzpatrick snagged the first place in the 11 to 13-year-old age category after correctly spelling a Guyanese word in the final round when the competition entered a sudden death finish with new words that were not previously given to the spellers. Fitzpatrick had won the ages 8 to 10 category in the same competition two years ago and had placed second in the Rotary Club Spelling Bee competition last year.
Rishaan Nagrani from MAC’s Browlia F. Mailliard campus came in second in the age 11 to 13 category at Saturday night’s competition, while Siyona Gianchandani of St. Maarten Academy placed third after winning a spell-off amongst several other participants who had tied for the spot.
Varidani won the top spot in the 8 to 10-year-old age category after correctly spelling her new word in the final round. Sioyna’s sister, Anaisha Gianchandani of MAC’s Browlia F. Mailliard campus came in second place and St. Dominic Primary pupil Sernik Porcasi placed third.
Winners received a number of attractive prizes thanks to the support of several sponsors. WINAIR sponsored airline tickets given to the two first-place winners. Sports Gallery on Back Street generously sponsored gift certificates for the first, second and third place winners in both categories. Finance Minister Ardwell Irion sponsored two tablets. Klass Electronics sponsored two tablets. Sun Insurance also sponsored a tablet. Boolchands sponsored a Bluetooth speaker. The St. Maarten Tzu Chi Foundation sponsored stationary supplies for each of the 37 participants. Tzu Chi also sponsored food packages which went to, amongst others, judges. St. Maarten Concrete, Sun Insurance, NAGICO Insurances, Talk Cell, Aunty Sally's Kitchen, Zhaveri Jewellers, MNA, Gibson’s wife Juliet Gibson, Orbitz Aviation, Sun Insurance, St. Maarten Concrete and members of the St. Maarten Guyanese Association have also contributed.
Room 202 at USM, where the spelling bee was held, was packed to capacity with excited parents, family members, teachers and other supporters.
Finance Minister Ardwell Irion, who has attended each spelling bee over the four years it was held, delivered introductory remarks at the start of the event and remained until the end watching the young spellers compete.
At the start of the event Guyanese Association President Neville Mars and Vice President Malcolm Mickle delivered remarks. Mickle singled out spelling bee coordinator Sharon Layne for her tireless efforts and hard work in leading the organising of the spelling bee from the inception four years ago to today. Educator and school official Lavonne Cort served as announcer of the words at the spelling bee and judges were Makeba Woods, Perdessa Abrams, Sara Haynes-Cousins and Adecia Rutherford.
The competition is organised by the St. Maarten Guyanese Foundation and it is named after the late Courtney Gibson, who served as Editor in Chief of The Daily Herald until his passing in 2013. The competition recognises Gibson’s educational standards and is also in honour and recognition of his serving as the association’s first president.