By Abdelmoula Mdiouani
Ibtissam Boulaghamane, 18, of Moulay Baamran High School in Kalaat Mgouna, on Saturday won the Solo Regional Spelling Bee Competition sponsored by the United States Peace Corps and the region’s Moroccan Association of English Teachers.
Boulaghamane defeated 15 contestants from high schools in Tinghir, Kalaat Mgouna, Ouarzazate and Zagora. Inas Belhouari, 17, of Ibn El Haitham Technical High School came in second, followed in third place by Hamza Taha, 17, of Boumalne Dades High School.
“I didn’t expect to win the first place against all those stronger competitors,’’ Boulaghamane said after receiving a trophy, medal and certificate for her accomplishment.
“I’m really surprised and exciting at the same time,’’ she said. “I am proud to have the first place in the competition. I want to say thanks to my teacher who really did a great job.’’
The two-day event was held at the COS One Hotel as part of MATE’s 13th annual regional meeting.
Nadia El Hamid, of College Tassuite, was eliminated after misspelling her first word—-“tablet.’’
Later, El Hamid said she was thrilled about the experience than losing.
“They are my friends, and it’s just a game, even if I didn’t make it,’’ she said. “I hope to win next time. I learned many things from this program. It helped me to experience such wonderful things than I didn’t know before.’’
The students were quizzed from a vocabulary list that included death, actor, student, talent, silver, prevent, dentist, toothbrush, drawing , subject , shopping, south, jeans, area , rubber, attractive , journey , history, magazine, medicine, memory, recreation and journalist.
Jim Dana, a U.S. Peace Corps health volunteer working in Azlag, a village near Kalaat Mgouna, came up with the idea to replicate the American contest in which competitors are eliminated after they fail to spell a given word.
He approached MATE and officials at the local delegation of youth and sports about idea, and they embraced it.
The program, which began in America in 1925, is now popular in many countries around the world.
Some Moroccan students and teachers are familiar with the program because they have seen the famous movie, “Akeela and the Bee,’’ starring Larry Fisburne.
Dana said he is pleased with how the program turned out in its first year. Students and English teachers are excited about it and some promised to keep it going in their schools.
He hopes to take the program nationwide next year.
After the event, Dana said he was touched by the stories by the students who told him how much they enjoyed the program and thanked him for initiating it.
“The highlight for me was to see how good the students could spell,’’ he said. “They were great and lucky to have had this experience.’’