2016 Spelling Bee champions KT and the Doc Mammas // Photo: BOU
Inspissate, \in-ˈspi-ˌsāt, ˈin(t)-spə-ˌsāt\, verb: to make thick or thicker. The winning word at the 2016 Bethlehem Opportunities Unlimited Community Spelling Bee is ultimately derived from Latin spissus, meaning “slow” or “dense” and is related to Greek spidnos, or “compact,” and Lithuanian “spisti,” meaning “to form a swarm.”
BOU, a not-for-profit organization that works to promote the health and safety of Bethlehem youth, will be holding its fifth annual community spelling bee on Thursday, March 2 at 6:30 p.m. in the Bethlehem Central High School cafeteria.
The bee, in which residents, teachers, local businesses, book clubs and other community groups are invited to compete, is uniquely formatted: competitors, grouped into “swarms,” play in teams, conferring on the spelling of various words before submitting a final answer; and teams have the ability to purchase “lifelines,” opportunities to consult a dictionary or phone a friend; and no one is eliminated before the end of each round, the winners of which are decided based on a point system.
Teams of three to five people enter by making a contribution of $120 and sponsorships are available, provided by local business, community groups and others, for teams with limited funds. Additional funds are raised by allowing community members, businesses and organizations the ability to purchase lifelines for teams or sponsor submitted words.
Local businesses, such as orthodontist offices, often sponsor words that apply to their professions, said Cindy Ferrari, BOU president, Bethlehem alum and mother of two Bethlehem students. “They can get to be pretty tricky,” she said. “Some of these words I’ve never even heard before.”
Attending the event is free, but there will be raffles, a silent auction and refreshments for sale. Items that have already been donated include: a free week of summer camp tuition, wine tasting event at Glennpeter’s Jewelers Diamond Centre for up to 40 people, golf for four at Normanside Country Club, an introductory flight lesson, four tickets to the Tri-City Valley Cats, and several gift certificates to local businesses. BOU said that it will be accepting donations and services up to the day of the event. Last year, the not-for-profit raised more than $6,000 and has hopes of exceeding that amount this year.
Money raised by BOU goes to support a variety of community youth programs and education. While independent, the organization has close ties with the Bethlehem Central School District, which hosts their website and connects needy programs with grant funding offered by BOU. Since the 2014-15 school year, BOU has donated more than $7,000 for the middle school’s costume ball, Girls Night Out at the high school, fifth grade survivor day, health advocacy projects, indoor recess games, Youth Court training, the middle school pavilion and an after school program for kids with special needs. Most recently, funds were given to purchase supplies for a Wall of Hope, sponsored by the Guerrilla Art Group at the high school, where students wrote New Year’s resolution messages on sticky notes.
Established in the 1980s in response to a perceived upswing in youthful profligacy, BOU has a volunteer board, made up of teachers, parents, community members and a student representative. It eventually evolved into a not-for- profit in order to offer grants and free educational programming. In the fall, BOU offers a program titled “Talking with Your Teen,” which has covered such topics as how to talk to your teen about drugs and alcohol and, most recently, how to help your teen use electronics and social media in a safe and positive way.
Money raised is made available, said Ferrari, but groups in need must actively seek it. “We have monthly meetings,” she said. “Any grant application that comes in, we review it, we vote on it and then we let them know.” When, as sometimes happens, they are unable to approve the entire amount, she said, they will often offer some portion of the amount. “It’s a really simple application.”
The spelling bee is BOU’s major fundraiser, but the organization also provides what Ferrari called “a public service” and sells notepads during school hours and the fall open houses that provide a pre-formatted note to school, such as a parent would write in the case of an illness or special request. Pre-printed with basic information areas such as the child’s name and homeroom, the notepad includes commonly occurring instances in which a parent would need to notify the school. “It’s just easier than having to write out a whole note,” Ferrari said.
“BOU has been a stable and consistent force supporting all of our students in the Bethlehem Central School District primarily through their community service programming for students and parents and through their donations,” said Mike Klugman, interim principal at the high school. “For example, our chess club started eight years ago through a donation from the BOU. Last year, we had over 150 students in grades 3-12 participate.”
“Being a BOU board member has opened my eyes to all the great things happening across our school district and how they are made possible by our dedicated teachers, students and organizations like BOU, who raise the needed funds to make them a reality” said Grace Cavanagh, student rep on BOU board and a senior at Bethlehem Central High School.
2016 Community Spelling Bee champions KT and the Doc Mammas will be back this year to defend their title against old rivals and new. “The BOU spelling bee is a great event to be a part of and fun for spectators as well,” said team member Lisa Kamerling. “Our team had a blast participating in the bee and can’t wait to defend our title!”
Interested teams should register by Feb. 24. In case of a snow day, the event will be rescheduled for March 4 at 6:30 p.m.
To learn more about BOU’s mission or apply for a grant, visit their website at www.bethlehemschools.org/community/bou.