Starting with just 30 students in 1987, Spelling of Bee of Canada (SBOC) attracted almost 4,000 participants from 28 chapters across the province for this year’s event that ended last Sunday.
And, for the first time ever, students representing Toronto Community Housing (TCH) took part in the competition.
Domonique Morris, who participated in two Spelling Bee contests, was instrumental in organizing students in the Jane & Falstaff community to participate in this year’s event.
“This is something I wanted to do for my community,” said the university student, who aspires to be a teacher. “The kids were receptive to the idea and the majority had the support of their parents.”
Morris plans to promote Spelling Bee in other TCH units across the city. She said former TCH chief executive officer Gene Jones supported the program.
“When I first mentioned to him what I was going to do, he was very impressed and promised to do whatever he could to spread the program in the TCH community,” said Morris. He was very supportive of this and other ideas to engage young people.”
Morris, who started a grassroots organization – Perfect Keys – that teaches young people in TCH to play the piano –started the North York chapter with her mother just over a decade ago.
“At the time, we were recruiting volunteers and Domonique (she was 13 at the time) suggested that she wanted to be involved,” said SBOC founder, Julie Spence.
Nearly 52,000 young people from across the province have participated in the SBOC competition that promotes learning, develop self-esteem and encourages the adoption of positive life skills among the youth. Young people compete in the primary category for kids between the ages of six and eight, the junior division for participants between the ages of nine and 11 and the intermediate section for youth whose ages range from 12 to 14.
When a father left after dropping off his child at a talent show Spence organized in the mid-1980s while she was a youth worker at the Caribbean Excelsior Fraternal Association, she knew she had to do something to engage parents and their children.
Before leaving, the dad assured Spence he would remain with his child if the organization created an event that would also capture his attention.
That was her cue to start a spelling bee for kids 27 years ago.