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Motlow librarian wins Celebrity Spelling Bee

Nov. 12, 2014
Brian Wilson, Daily News Journal
Used by permission


Paige Hendrickson became a champion speller Monday night with her Read To Succeed Celebrity Spelling Bee win.

The librarian at the Motlow College Smyrna campus claimed victory over runner-up NHC president Steve Flatt and 18 other "celebrity" spellers at the fundraiser for the Read To Succeed literacy organization at World Outreach Church.

The winning word? Rubicundity.

"The first thought that went through my mind was 'Are you serious?'" the college librarian said after the bee. Even without hearing the word describing reddish skin before, she spelled it without fault.

The annual fundraiser for the Read to Succeed Foundation brought an estimated 400 people to the World Outreach Church. The event was expected to raise at least $70,000 for the literacy organization, said Read to Succeed Director Lisa Mitchell.

"By far, it's our largest event ever," Mitchell said.

The spelling bee is the single major fundraiser organized by nonprofit during the year. The non-profit uses the money raised to try to help children and adults improve their reading skills and offer English as a Second Language classes to those learning the language for the first time.

A 2003 U.S. Department of Education study estimated that 10 percent of Rutherford County residents lack basic literacy skills.

"I think our community recognizes our literacy issues, and they want to help solve the problems," Mitchell said.

The competition included local officials and residents including high school football guru Murphy Fair, Gib Backlund of the Stones River National Battlefield and Janie Becker with the University of Tennessee Ag Extension.

Each person on the panel spoke about what literacy meant to them and how necessary it is in people's lives.

"How scary it would be if we had to go through life that way," Becker said.

After 90 minutes of spelling, Flatt and Hendrickson dueled for several rounds with words like encryption and parasol before the NHC executive faltered on the word entablature. Hendrickson then spelled sanguine and rubicundity for the championship.

Read To Succeed officials also announced their selection for next year's One Book as The Rosie Project, a 2013 novel written by Australian author Graeme Simison.

The One Book initiative, now in its tenth year, is a Read to Succeed effort that encourages the community to all read the same book over the course of a year.

In 2015, that book will be one about an autistic professor trying to turn romance into a science with comedic results.

Mitchell said the book would be available for residents to pick up, read and pass along in various locations around Rutherford County in January. Copies will also be available for purchase at local bookstores before then.

"We want there to be no excuse for people not to read the One Book," Mitchell said.

Contact Brian Wilson at 615-278-5165 or bwilson@dnj.com. Follow him on Twitter @brianwilson17.