By Rocío Hernández
University of Nevada, Reno senior Marty King remembered growing up in a family that strongly emphasized education. His mother made sure that King read at least one hour a day. She also encouraged her children to learn proper grammar and English.
“My parents weren’t as fortunate to go to college,” King said. “We always had the understanding between me and my siblings, you’re either going to the military or going to college.”
From a young age, King understood that if he wanted to be successful, he would have to work harder and do better than others. As a kid, King enjoyed testing his vocabulary and read the dictionary. He also took part in spelling bees in Chicago, where he lived, and remembers the contests were highly competitive.
Last Tuesday, the spelling bee veteran got the opportunity to relive his childhood in the The Associated Students of the University of Nevada’s inaugural Reno Education Awareness Drive spelling bee on March 3 in the Mathewson IGT-Knowledge Center Wells Fargo Auditorium.
Sen. Abby Feenstra of the College of Liberal Arts took first place, King took second, and Sen. Bryce Warner of the College of Business took third. Event participants and attendees were allowed to take books donated by Sundance Books and Music.
The spelling bee, hosted by the ASUN Civic Engagement Committee, was used to bring attention to ASUN’s month-long book drive that promotes literacy in Washoe County and is collecting books for Reno elementary schools. The books will be taken to the schools on March 25, 26, and 27.
City of Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve was scheduled to be a judge for the event but her executive assistant Madeline Burak announced that she was unable to attend. Instead, Burak presented a proclamation to the committee issued by Schieve where she declared March 2015 as Reno Education Awareness Drive Month. The mayor encouraged all Reno citizens to do their part and support youth literacy in their community.
“Now is the opportunity to help others by a simple deed of donating one or more books to help young children struggling to read and prove why reading is so important to children,” Schieve wrote in the proclamation.
ASUN has dispersed bins all throughout the university in buildings such as the Knowledge Center, the William J. Raggio Building, the Davidson Mathematics and Science Building and the Joe Crowley Student Union. The committee also placed collection bins in community buildings such as the Bibo Coffee Co. located on Record Street, Trader Joe’s and Reno City Hall. Sen. Rosalie Ferebee of the College of Business and civic engagement committee chair said this attracts donations from all types of demographics.
The drive is the committee’s first major project since its creation last year, Ferebee said.
The spelling bee consisted of three rounds and one bonus round made up of Nevada-themed words. Contestant Theo Meek kicked off the spelling bee with “across,” and the word choice became more challenging as the contest progressed.
“The last time I was on this stage was during the debates last year,” Meek said. “I think I am more nervous right now than last year.”
Ferebee expects the spelling and drive to be established as a new tradition for ASUN and the civic engagement committee.
“I feel the event was successful in that it brought students and faculty with varying levels of previous interaction with ASUN together in a fun and entertaining event to raise awareness about a serious issue in the community,” Ferebee said. “The event can definitely grow in future years with amazing partnerships with businesses like Sundance Books and The Wolf Shop.”
Rocío Hernández can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @rociohdz19.