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First-Ever 'Pali Bee' Takes the Stage

Kids share a s-u-c-c-e-s-s-f-u-l day of spelling at the first annual Pacific Palisades Spelling Bee Sunday at the Rustic Canyon Recreation Center.

The youngest Westside wordsmiths competed for a trophy and, of course, the title of "Spelling Bee Champ" at the first annual Pacific Palisades Spelling Bee Sunday.

First and second grade competitors tossed around a few "Ps and Qs" from 10 a.m.-12 p.m at Rustic Canyon Recreation Center in Santa Monica. The third, fourth and fifth graders were center stage from 1-3 p.m.

The competition began with a written test and then kids were selected to move on to the verbal round.

Organizers Leslie Pereira and her husband, Eugene Volokh, came up with the idea for the "Pali Bee" on a flight back from Michigan, Pereira's home state. Her son, Ben, was enjoying the movie Spellbound, a film that followed eight teenagers who competed in the 1999 National Spelling Bee. That's when the couple realized there weren't any spelling bees in the area. So, Pereira and Volokh began researching how to start their own.

After much research, Pereira and Volokh started a non-profit organization called "Pali Bee." Pereira says about half the cost of the bee was paid for by the $15 participant registration fee. The other half was paid by Pereira and Volokh.

The idea is to incorporate all the elementary schools in the Palisades area, in order to get kids excited about academics. And it seems like the word got out. Around 113 kids registered from 15 different schools, including: 

While every kid left a winner, with a T-shirt to commemorate the event, there were trophy winners in each grade:

First Grade:
1.  Sam Volokh—Palisades Charter Elementary
2.  Madeline Neilson—Corpus Christi School
3.  Simon Lee—Center for Early Education 

Second Grade:
1.  Eli Kaplan-Packer—PS #1
2.  Oliver Garrett—Corpus Christi School
3.  Ben Volokh—Palisades Charter Elementary

Third Grade:
1. Liana Rostamian—Palisades Charter Elementary
2. Charlotte Costain—Palisades Charter Elementary
3. Maximus La Via—Corpus Christi School

Fourth/Fifth (combined testing):
1.  Grace Cortese—St. Matthew's Parish School
2.  William Elander—Marquez Elementary
3.  Monica Martell—Marquez Elementary

Approximately 22 volunteers participated in the event, wearing different hats to make the event possible.

While Pereira and Volokh were the primary organizers, Pereira told Patch that the event could not have been put on without the help of others, including Brittny Aspey who was in charge of potentially the most sacred part of the Pali Bee: the confidential word lists. Other contributers included Colleen Sullivan who pulled the event together and Choppy Guillote who helped with the stage set-up and sound.

Even though the event just wrapped up, Pereira says she is already planning for next year.

"I hope to get into the other schools sooner to get the word out," said Pereira. "Also, I would love it if local schools put this event on their radar screens and encouraged their students to prepare and participate."

  • For more information about the Pali Bee, click here.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story stated that the Pali Bee was created thanks to many donations and grants. However, Pereira says about half the cost of the bee was paid through participant registration. The other half was paid by Pereira and Volokh.

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