Spelling bee contestant says it’s a chance to better herself | NevadaAppeal.com

Spelling bee contestant says it’s a chance to better herself

by Maggie O'Neill

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Alicia Vega holds an English/Spanish dictionary at the dining room table in her South Carson City home on Friday evening. She is competing in the English-as-a-second-language spelling bee tonight at WNCC.

“Lobster,” “oxygen” and “gorgeous” are spelling words that could win two people Hewlett-Packard computers at the English-as-a-second-language spelling bee tonight at Western Nevada Community College.

More than 50 WNCC adult students of all ages will compete in intermediate and advanced spelling bee contests, which begin at 7 p.m. in Sarah Winnemucca Hall at WNCC.

“Many students come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds,” said Teri Zutter, director of adult basic education. “The computer is a big deal for the families. There is one gal who comes into the office every day to study. She is extremely motivated by the idea she could have access to that technology at her home.”

That is 19-year-old Alicia Vega, from Mexico, who has lived in the United States for 10 months and began taking classes at WNCC in September 2004.

“She was a beginning student and has advanced more than 22 points on the standardized test,” Zetter said. “That’s huge.”

Vega takes 10 1/2 hours of classes Monday through Thursday and spends 10-12 hours of her own time studying English.

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“I couldn’t believe she was just a beginning student,” Zetter said of her first meeting with Vega. “That’s when I pulled her file, and said ‘No way’ and asked her if she knew about the spelling contest.”

Vega has studied nearly every day for the contest. Her uncle, aunt and cousins will attend the spelling bee.

“It’s the first time I’ve participated in the spelling bee,” she said Friday through an interpreter. “You should always follow your dreams and if they don’t work, it’s OK, there are other dreams.”

Second-place winners in the bees receive a dictionary of idioms and colloquialisms and third-place winners will be given mugs and T-shirts from the WNCC bookstore. But the top prizes include the computer, a printer and installation by computer technicians.

“I’ve been studying a lot,” Vega said. “The computer is a good prize, but mostly it’s to better myself.”

All participants will receive a pocket dictionary and pocket thesaurus. The event starts at 6 p.m. with refreshments, including international desserts. The contest begins at 7 p.m.

Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at mo’neill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.