- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 3, 2006

A District fifth-grader made $250 the “sensible” way yesterday by winning a spelling bee at a neighborhood church.

Jerry Lawrence, 10, took the top prize in the first Benning Terrace Spelling Bee, held at the First Rock Baptist Church in Southeast.

About 100 people packed the church’s basement to watch 15 neighborhood children in a riveting eight-round competition.

“I did a lot of practice and studying, took time out from playing and stuff,” Jerry said.

Jerry, who attends the charter KIPP DC: AIM Academy, outlasted the field before going head-to-head with fellow fifth-grader Antania Cannady for the showdown.

After going word-for-word for a few rounds, Jerry seized his opportunity when Antania slipped up on “discussion.” Jerry got it right, then clinched the crown by spelling “sensible.”

Upon being told that he was victorious, Jerry ran to his mother and gave her a huge hug, amid cheers and applause.

“I’m very proud of him,” his mother, Trisha Lawrence, said. “We’ve been getting ready for it for a while, practicing and spelling in the car. I told him not to be nervous.”

Antania received $150 for her second-place finish.

Jerry, shy and soft-spoken, was calm and collected during the competition, but acknowledged afterward that he was a bundle of nerves.

“Yeah, I was a little bit nervous,” Jerry said with a smile. He plans to save the money.

The event was created by Raymond Woods, the host of WOL 1450’s “More Better Man” oldies-but-goodies show.

“I heard so much about the problems in the neighborhood back in September when I had a block party out here,” he said. “I knew, with my voice on the radio, I could call some people and do some things.”

The costs were covered by a listener of Mr. Woods’ program who wished to remain anonymous.

About 60 children from the Benning Terrace neighborhood applied to compete, 15 of whom were selected, said Joe Haertel, the event organizer.

“It was a lot of work to put it together, but it was worth it,” he said. “It was all for the kids, to do something positive for them.”

Mr. Woods and First Rock minister Patricia Moten co-sponsored the bee, along with neighborhood activist Parthia “Ma” Brown.

“I’m so proud; it [dispels] the myth that black men cannot learn, cannot read or write,” said Mary Hall, the bee’s pronouncer and Mr. Woods’ radio co-host. “These young men and women, they are the future.”

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