Springfield, MO

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Stup The Preses

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by Karen E. Culp

It was providence. Or was it?

"Providence" was the word three brave spellers from the Springfield Business Journal took on at the third annual Adult Spelling Bee for literacy, and providence sent us back to our seats with no hope remaining of the prestigious first prize. My teammates and I would wait out the rest of the bee in our seats, faces fallen, hope lost.

Actually, we had a great time at the Bee, and I think we would have even if we had misspelled the very first word we were given. And we came close to doing so, passing on "muskmelon" during the first round by using a "Spelligan."

I have been involved, in some capacity, with the Adult Spelling Bee now for three years. During the very first bee, a coworker of mine and I were judges for the event, which drew only a few teams.

Last year, I was on the third-place winning team, with teammates Bryan Smith and Clarissa French, who also joined me this year on our SBJ team. This year's bee was the largest so far, drawing 16 teams and raising more than $8,000 for the Ozarks Literacy Council.

Through my involvement with this event, I have been able to get to know some of the people who fight adult illiteracy on a daily basis. Heidi Slone, executive director, and Patty Ruiz, workplace coordinator, are two of the OLC's devoted servants. Ruiz manages some of the most interesting and valuable programs the literacy council offers: those that ask employers to help deal with the problem of illiteracy in their own workplaces.

The workplace literacy programs can work in a number of ways. Some companies have a referral program, where they test their employees' reading skills and refer those employees who need extra help to the literacy council. Other programs involve workers teaching coworkers to read on company time.

OLC also has a relatively new program called Workplace Skills Enhancement, which evaluates a company's employees' basic skills, and recommends a way in which those skills can be enhanced to better prepare employees for future training.

The council also provides English for Speakers of Other Languages courses, which is the fastest-growing area the council has right now. OLC also has family literacy and corrections literacy programs.

The council is working harder now than it ever has. Slone reports a perpetual waiting list of students who need tutors. The tutor-volunteers work one-on-one with students, after a brief training course, and volunteers report that the experience of teaching someone to read is invaluable.

If you love to read and want to help someone else learn to love it, too, you should give the literacy council a call. At the very least, you should plan on participating in next year's spelling bee. This year's $500 registration fee bought a chance to show off mental muscle in front of a healthy crowd of people, and the chance to chuckle a little.

I would be remiss if I did not congratulate the winners of the bee, the Marlin Company, aka the Marlin Marms, who not only correctly spelled their way to the end, but, taking advantage of the fact that this year's bee included a costume contest, did it dressed as circa-19th century school marms.

Their costumes ran a close second to those of the Liberty Bank team; three women dressed as Statues of Liberty, complete with torches, headpieces and floor-length silver lam? gowns. The Liberty Ladies took home the prize in the costume contest.

The Ozarks Literacy Council could use the help of some good volunteers. For more information on the literacy council's workplace literacy programs, the spelling bee or to volunteer to teach adults to read, please call 886-5499.

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