Local Student to Represent Riverside County at 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Faith Zapata, a shy sixth grader from Palm View Elementary School in the Coachella Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) has a natural ability, she can spell brilliantly.  In fact, her spelling capabilities are so astounding that on Memorial Weekend the gifted 12-year-old will be one of three Riverside County students competing at the televised 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee championship in National Harbor, Maryland.

Faith began her spelling journey studying and beating out her classroom’s fifth and sixth-grade peers.  The next step was competing and winning the Palm View Elementary School spelling bee which included students from grades 4-6.  CVUSD has 14 elementary schools and four middle schools in its district. Middle school students up to the eighth grade are eligible to compete. Each of these schools sends their winner to the District Bee, which Faith won.

From there, each district winner is eligible to move on to compete at the Riverside County Spelling Bee.  There were 27 students representing each of the county’s school districts this year.  Faith tied for second, place making her eligible to advance to nationals.  She will be the first CVUSD student to have made it all the way to the Scripps National Spelling Bee finals.

Faith’s mother, Crystal Valdez, beams over her daughter’s success.  “Our whole family is proud of Faith.  She has loved to read since she was in the first grade.  She is always reading.  One of the things that has helped her in preparing for the Spelling Bees, has been the great assistance she has received from her Read With Me Volunteers tutor, Charmaine du Preez, who works with Faith once a week for about an hour.”

Read With Me is a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting local children from low income and limited English-speaking environment, to develop to their fullest potential by learning to read, comprehend and speak English, while understanding that people care about them as individuals.

“Faith is a gifted child,” said Read With Me Volunteers founder and president, Roberta Klein.  “We want to help young scholastics like Faith, advance to the best of their abilities, as is our goal for all our children no matter their aptitude level.  Read With Me will help sponsor some of the expenses for this exciting trip for Faith and her family.”

Faith’s former fourth-grade teacher and ongoing school spelling bee coordinator, Mary Polnau, will be rooting for Faith as she heads off to Maryland. “This is a huge thing that Faith has accomplished.  Ours is a low-income valley school.  So, it is a big feat on her part to demonstrate her determination and persevere.  We have competed with kids who can afford to pay for private tutors.  Faith has taken advantage of the resources the school has provided, as well as the tutoring sessions that Read With Me Volunteers has provided her.  She does, however, a lot of studying on her own.  She is very self-motivated.  When Faith became eligible to compete in the district spelling bee, that meant she had to beat out every 4-6 grade elementary student winners, as well as middle school students up to eighth grade.”  This challenge continues as she goes into the Scripps National Spelling Bee competition.

Faith’s principal and teachers say the same thing about her: she is an amazing child, who has excelled in language arts, reading, and especially spelling.  She also loves animals, nature, and drawing.

“Everything I have learned from kindergarten all the way to now is what has brought me here,” said Faith.  “I am thankful for my biggest supporters, mom and dad.”

Image Sources

  • Faith Zapata: Palm View Elementary School