Yulkendy Valdez's story is truly inspiring! The 14-year-old spelling champ spoke no English when she immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic with her family just four years ago. Since then, she not only mastered the language, but also began acing spelling bees all across the state of Missouri. She recently earned a spot in The Scripps National Spelling Bee, taking place later this month.
This Dominicana is looking forward to competing in the bee, an event that has been growing in popularity ever since the celebrated documentary Spellbound catapulted The Scripps National Spelling Bee—and the kids who compete in it—onto the national stage. Although The Scripps National Spelling Bee was first broadcast on network television in 1946, since it was adopted by ESPN back in 1994, the stakes have gotten higher and the competition more fierce.
Yulkendy will be among 293 students to compete this year, the greatest number in the history of the event. Although it was hard for Valdez to leave her native home in the DR, she says she is happy to have moved and started a new life with her mother, little brother and step-father. She learned English by reading a ton of books and watching American television instead of Spanish language programming to practice. She first heard about the spelling bee the very year she entered school in St. Louis. Her friends pushed her to join and she managed to get every word right, even to her own amazement!
Her pointers for becoming an ace speller? "It's all about learning the roots and the etymology of languages like Greek and Latin. And the rest is about luck!" As her plans for the future, Yulkendy wants to either go to business or law school. Be sure to catch her competing in the bee, semifinals air Thursday May 28th, on ESPN starting at 10AM. Finals will air that same day on ABC at 8PM.
Good luck Yuklendy!