ASTEP students shine in spelling competition
A CLEVER English language student from Retreat Primary and Junior High School in St Mary collected a trophy, certificate and cash prize of $3,000 on Monday, after winning the parish's second annual Spelling Bee competition.
Lorenzo Clunis triumphed over 17 contestants from four rival schools to win the contest, which aims to transform antisocial behaviour by engaging young people in the Alternative Secondary Transitional Education Programme (ASTEP).
Speaking after his win, Clunis, 14, praised the Social Development Commission and local police's Community Safety and Security Branch (CSSB) for hosting the event, which comprised two preliminary stages and a tense, final knockout round.
He told The Gleaner: "I feel good because I studied hard for this; from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. every day since May. To me, the best thing is this competition has helped me learn how to spell, and now my homework is much easier because I have been studying all these new words.
"The hardest thing was that, whenever they called me up to spell a word, I started to fret (laughs). I came fifth in this competition last year, so I worked really hard because I wanted to come either first or second this time."
According to the ASTEP coordinator at Clunis' school, Tania Osbourne-Palmer, the parish's annual spelling contest has become a useful tool in helping to motivate underperforming and disruptive students.
She explained: "A competition like this is very critical because so many children participate and the momentum brings them all on a high. ASTEP students are put down so frequently that coming to an event like this is a really big achievement that makes them feel like they are part of society, and that really does so much for them.
"I found the group of students I worked with this year was really interested and motivated, which really helps. They were ready to excel and achieve like regular students. Watching them learn about letters, syllables and pronunciation was a real pleasure."
Deputy superintendent in charge of St Mary's CSSB, Lorraine Elliston, added: "We use this competition to target children in the ASTEP because a programme such as this allows them to feel they are winners, which affects them positively and encourages them to continue winning at other things as it relates to education.
"The turnout was great and, when I listened to some of the students spell, I thought I was listening to a mainstream competition. Ideally, we would like to see fewer students taking part next year because that would mean they would be doing well at school. But as long as the ASTEP continues, we look forward to working with more schools and students across the parish."