A Ketchikan middle-school student is headed to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in late May.

Grace Parrott won Ketchikan’s districtwide spelling bee in late February, and went on to compete in the state bee in Anchorage. She didn’t win that competition, but she still gets to go to nationals.


Grace Parrott was the last speller standing during Ketchikan’s spelling bee in February. She won with the word Haversack. (KRBD file photo by Leila Kheiry)

Of course, whenever you’re in a competition the goal is to win. Even though she didn’t win the statewide spelling bee in Anchorage, though, Grace Parrott was overall pleased with her performance.

“It was very cool. I think it actually went pretty well,” she said. “I was top-30 in the state out of 150. I think that that’s enough, even if I didn’t win.”

She said it was a lot of fun, and very different from the district spelling bee she won earlier this spring, which had just six competitors.

“It was a little intimidating at first. But as we started getting into it, I kind of lost the anxiety,” she said. “It was kind of similar to what I’d experienced before at the district level, but at the same time it was like a whole new thing entirely.”

The national bee in Washington, D.C., will take that to an even higher level.  

Grace is able to attend that national competition through a brand-new program Scripps offered this year called RSVBee. It allows more students to participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, especially those from under-represented areas.

The bee process starts with classroom competitions. Class winners go to the school bee, school winners go to the district, and district winners go to state. After that, there are different ways to get to the national competition: You can win the state bee, a sponsored district can send you, and, now, you can apply through RSVBee.

About 200 students were picked through that new program, and Grace found out she’d been accepted just before the state bee.

When she didn’t win state, she said she debated whether to attend the national bee.

“Because it does cost money, along with the application, to be able to take advantage of that opportunity,” she said. “But overall I think it’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime deal and if I don’t take advantage of that now, I might be regretting that decision later.”

To attend the Anchorage bee, Grace did a lot of fundraising for travel expenses. She’s fundraising again to help pay for Washington, D.C.

Grace said she enjoys spelling, and figuring out how to spell certain words based on their origin. She kinda skirted a question about how much she enjoys reading, but her mom, Katie Parrott, didn’t let her get away it.

“She is already testing into English 111 at the college level,” she said. “She’s already started her first novel. She has 60 single-spaced pages of writing. I’ve never written anything 60 single-spaced pages in my life!”

To prepare for the national bee, Grace said she’s studying spelling words two hours a day. She was sent a whole new list of words.

“They’re way, way harder than the other ones,” she said. “I can’t even pronounce like half of them! But I bet by studying hard I can probably spell them.”

According to Valerie Miller of Scripps, the digital database shows no previous Ketchikan student has participated in the national bee. But in 2010, then-eighth-grader Oliver Price of Craig was a national competitor.

This year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee is May 29 through June 1. Two other Alaska students will join Parrott at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Joshua Saylor of Chugiak won the statewide bee in Anchorage. Fairbanks North Star Borough School District is sending Daniel Doudna, the winner of that district’s regional competition.