Mississippi’s representative to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. is out after the third round of competition on Tuesday.
Jessica Widodo, who just completed her sixth grade year at Partnership Middle School in Starkville was speller number 164 out of 234 and was one of only 34 sixth graders at the competition.
She first took the stage around 4:15 local time but could not overcome the word given in the third round: pacificism. Widodo spelled the word “p-a-c-i-f-i-s-m.”
“I was really nervous,” Widodo said. “There was a lot of pressure, definitely a lot of pressure on the stage, but I just tried my best. You know even though I didn’t make it very far, I’m still happy with how far I made it.
“I’m really loving my experience in D.C. I was … mostly excited because I’m surrounded by a lot of amazing spellers. I’ve even gotten to make friends with some of them, so I’ve really loved this experience.”
Widodo and her mother, Lydia Yuniarti, will remain in the nation’s capital for the week.
“We’re probably just going to travel around to Washington, D.C., and look at all of the memorials and enjoy all the activities Bee Week has to offer,” Widodo said. “I’m most looking forward to the awards banquet on Friday. I know that will be a fun event.”
Road to the bee
Widodo secured her spot at the national bee by winning the state spelling bee in March.
Due to the loss of the state bee’s main sponsor, Mississippi was at risk this year for being the first state to not send a representative to the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
A grassroots effort in the fall to “save the bee” was coordinated by the Columbus-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce. The Commercial Dispatch offered financial sponsorship on the condition the state bee would be moved from Jackson to Columbus.
Long-time educator Lois Kappler served as the state bee director. She and members of the Chamber’s Education Committee helped host the state bee at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus in March.
“Jessica should be proud of the way she represented the state and the Golden Triangle in D.C.,” said Dispatch publisher Peter Imes. “Before she left, she painted a bee and sent it to me with a thoughtful note, which expressed how excited she was to be going to D.C. I’m glad she’s getting the experience.”
Widodo said she has loved the experience, but she will not partake in the spelling bee next year so another student in Mississippi has the chance to experience all that she has this year. She said she has made many new friends and met so many new people in the short time she has been in D.C.
“I’d like to, of course, say thank you to everyone who supported me, especially The Commercial Dispatch, my state coordinator (Lois) Kappler, all of the sponsors, Books-A-Million, Mr. Michael Watson, all of the teachers at my school, my principal and all of my friends and my whole family, especially my grandparents,” Widodo said Tuesday evening.
The finals will air on ION Thursday and will be hosted by “Reading Rainbow” host and “Star Trek” actor, LeVar Burton.
To follow along with live updates of the bee, visit spellingbee.com.