The upcoming Spelling Bee on May 2 is coordinated and created by Protect the Tusk, a club formerly known as Save the Elephants. Club presidents Sanjay Kanduri ’15 and Ben Segal ’15, as well as event advisor Diana Lygas, organized the club’s second spelling bee. The club’s ultimate goal is to host events and fundraise in order to raise awareness and money to help the cause of saving endangered elephants in Africa.
Last year, club efforts raised approximately $3,500 toward the cause, $400 of which came from the Spelling Bee. The Spelling Bee had around 50 contestants and three prizes, and a few English teachers even offered extra credit to students who participated. Contestants can be of any grade in PHS, and the people in first, second, and third places each receive a gift card to either a store or restaurant in town. “The group wanted to do something that would be a fundraiser that was meaningful for, obviously, the cause and something that was different, that hadn’t been done before, but that would get people to participate,” said club advisor Steffanie Shoop.
Not only does the event sell merchandise and tickets to raise money, but it also offers a chance to help raise awareness throughout the school community regarding endangered elephants. “A lot of it is to do with awareness, so anyone who goes there will get to hear information about the current situation of the elephants, and we like to spread that knowledge,” Kanduri said.
Last year, a few contestants entered the competition in support of the cause, rather than their appreciation of spelling. “I like elephants. I’m not as big a fan of spelling, but I like spelling bees,” said participant Nathaniel Hyman ’17. “I like preservation, [and] I think that’s important.”
The event coordinators incorporated many aspects from traditional spelling bees throughout last year’s event. There were judges—Protect the Tusk leaders Adam Inbar ’15 and Michael Moravcsik ’15—time restrictions, and multiple rounds of elimination. “There was a big clock in the back, so they made sure that it was as authentic as possible. It was well done,” Shoop said.
Protect the Tusk’s event last year avoided the intense and competitive nature common in spelling bees, while still maintaining the traditional spelling bee ambiance. “I liked the environment—everyone was having a good time. It wasn’t super competitive [or] scary and it was just fun,” said Alexa Podolsky ’17, who competed last year. Many participants enjoyed the event, even if they did not receive a prize.
After last year, the club has decided to host the event again with only a few adjustments. This year, the creators of the event intend to have a cappella groups perform for the audience during intermission, and they will change the stores of the gift card prizes.
Due to PREA negotiations, the event will have a slightly different production process. “Ms. Shoop is our advisor but because of contract negotiations, Ms. Lygas is the one that is going to be watching over the event,” Kanduri said. Nevertheless, the event will take place and the club hopes to continue to raise awareness throughout the community.