Saturday, January 26, 2008
Congratulations to my nephew Jonathan Anene
by Carla Anene
On Friday, January 24, 2008, Jide was crowned Third Grade Spelling Champion at his school. Jonathan, an eight-year-old scholar/athlete, bested all of his third grade peers and one formidable second grader to take the third-grade title in his school's spelling bee. Audience members hung on the edges of their seats as the third-grade competition went into overtime with the final two spellers, Jonathan and second-grader Madi, dueling it out. Earlier that morning second-grade spelling phenom Madi had captured the second-grade title, then thrilled audiences by out-spelling all third graders except Jonathan. Jonathan and Madi matched each other word for word until all of the words on the official third grade list had been exhausted. The moderator then went to an auxiliary list. The break in the match came when Madi misspelled "furniture." Jonathan stepped to the microphone and correctly spelled that word, and then spelled "muscle" to capture the title.
Jonathan's accomplishments are all the more remarkable when you consider his route to the championship. Just one week prior to the spelling bee, all third graders were required to participate in a "pop" spelling bee, without any opportunity for preparation. From that competition, Jonathan and 5 other classmates emerged as the top spellers. They were given the task of studying 522 frequently misspelled words, in addition to their regular homework assignments and extracurricular activities.
Following Jonathan's win, his mother beamed with pride as she congratulated Jonathan with a bear hug. She was overhead telling the school principal, "I barely made it here. This morning I awoke to a flat tire and a bent rim, but I pleaded with the guys at the repair shop to expedite the repair because my son was in the spelling bee. I also persuaded my boss to change the time of our staff meeting so I could get here. Then, there was heavy traffic due to the pouring rain, but nothing was going to stop me from getting here." Jonathan's mom arrived just as Jonathan's close friend and basketball teammate was eliminated. That ouster left Jonathan and Madi to duke it out for the title.
Over a celebratory dinner on Friday evening, Jonathan's parents reminded their children that Jonathan's victory, as well as his buddy's third-place finish, sends a powerful message that African-American students in general, and African-American males in particular, are an academic force to be reckoned with. Jonathan and his buddy are the only two African-American students in third grade. Jonathan's parents also noted that the only two African-American males in the fourth grade class also advanced to the finals in their division, although they did not place in the top three. Jonathan's parents shared with their son a favorite quote from the late, great Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. "There are three keys to success- preparation, preparation, preparation." Jonathan has already learned to put that motto into action.