Two students will represent Oregon at the Scripps National Spelling Bee starting Tuesday.
Agatha Chang is a seventh grader at Winterhaven School in Portland. Last year was her first competing in spelling bees. She lost at the regional level, but this year, she aced the winning word.
“It was a pretty simple word: 'Persian,'” Chang said.
Chang hasn’t practiced too much in preparation for the bee. She’s excited, but also a little nervous.
“It’s kind of nerve-wracking because you’re going to nationals, and it’s the best of the best,” she said.
Her mother, Elleanor Chin, is surprised to see her daughter participating in spelling bees.
“I didn’t really realize it was a thing,” Chin said. “She’s kind of doing this for herself. That’s the thing I appreciate about it: She sort of has this internal motivation.”
Chang and Arcadia Corn, a sixth grader at Nyssa Middle School in Eastern Oregon, will join 563 other spellers in first through eighth grade.
When she’s not spelling, Chang argues why backpacks are better than lockers in speech and debate club.
“They’re more versatile, they're more portable,” she said. “I think we took it a little more seriously than we needed to.”
She’s not feeling the same competitiveness when it comes to the spelling bee, though.
“It’s just sort of something that I want to do and that I want to enjoy while doing it,” Chang said.
The winner will take home a $40,000 prize. The competition runs through Thursday.