'Celebrity' spelling bee raises money, provides challenge for contestants

Highland senior Corey Jahlas after misspelling the word "daiquiri" during the Adult Education Alternative Spring Break "CMU Celebrity Spelling Bee" to raise money for their trip to Minneapolis at the Bovee UC auditorium Wednesday evening. Kaitlin Thoresen/Staff Photographer

It took only one sentence to change the entire competition.

"Can we pay $1 to give the contestant a harder word?," Ashley Watters, a Detroit graduate assistant for the Central Michigan University Volunteer Center, asked after the directions were read.

The original instructions for Wednesday's celebrity spelling bee were as follows: contestants would be able to receive an easier word for a $1 donation. If contestants were eliminated, the audience could pay $1 to put the contestant back in. Contestants would only be able to take advantage of those stipulations three times before they expired. The winner would be the last one in the competition remaining and must spell an additional word correctly to win.

However, the proposed rule gave the spelling bee an entirely new edge.

"You've got to have a challenge," said CMU alum Shawn Ross, who influenced Watters to introduce the new rule. "Universities are all about challenges. Why, alternative breaks are about challenges."

The spelling bee, hosted by the Adult Education Alternative Spring Break to fund the team's trip to Minneapolis, Minn., featured several prominent participators within the CMU community. The event took place in the Bovee University Center Auditorium Wednesday night.

The group raised more than $40 from the event.

Contestants included Provost Gary Shapiro, Coordinator of Campus Ambassadors Program Erin Smith, Assistant Director of Residence Life Kim Voison, singer/songwriter Ben Schuller and Student Government Association President Justin Gawronski.

"Twist: I want harder words for the next 10 people," Gawronski said at the beginning of the second round, waving a $10 bill.

This went against Gawronski, who went out three rounds later with a botched spelling of "baccalaureate." The words were originally much easier, before $1 donations came pouring in.

Macomb senior and Emmons Hall residential assistant Lindsay Churches won the competition, emerging victorious in the final round over University Communications Associate Vice President Sherry Knight.

"Honestly, I just wanted to have a great time with it and support a great cause," Churches said. "The reward for winning was a $25 cash reward, but I didn't accept it and made them keep it to go toward their trip, so I think that was the most rewarding aspect of winning."

Shapiro survived four rounds into the competition, much longer than he expected to stay in.

"I'm not a speller," Shapiro said. "My wife said, 'You are crazy for going to a spelling bee,' and she was right."

In the second round, the moderators ran into technical difficulties while Shapiro was given a challenging word, "idiosyncrasy."

"The technology office reports to me," the provost said.

Shapiro failed to spell the word but was put back in the competition by a $1 donation from the audience.

"Alternative breaks are one of the best things this university has," Shapiro said after the event. "I'm glad I was able to support it."

Shapiro was not the only individual who met challenges in spelling during the competition.

Calkins Residence Hall Director Cathy Warner struggled with the word "paraphernalia," in the second round.

"Can't I just have 'marijuana'?" she asked.

Muskegon senior Kellene Hilliard, who is part of the Adult Education Spring Break team, was pleased with the turnout of the event.

"I think that it went really well," Hilliard said. "It was a nice intimate setting, and people were very generous"


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