In the spirit of education and commitment to the development of youth, the Montgomery County chapter of Jack and Jill of America, the oldest and largest black family organization in the United States, held its eighth annual Spelling Bee and Benjamin E. Mays Oratorical Competition in Rockville on Sunday.
Hosted at Georgetown Preparatory School, the event housed a diverse group of more than 50 students from across Montgomery County, with more than $350 awarded to students first through fifth grade.
As the original founder of the organization’s spelling bee, Chandra Walker Holloway emphasized the significant role events such as these play in the community.
“The reason I created this spelling bee eight years ago was because of my daughter,” Holloway said. “She wasn’t a strong speller and was very shy, but after I entered her into her school spelling bee, I noticed a dramatic change in her confidence and literacy levels. After that we looked all over the country for other spelling bee opportunities for her, and when that fell short, I went to the then-chapter president of Jack and Jill and really pushed the creation of this program.
“And to me, that is what sets our competitions apart,” she said. “It really isn’t about your race, economic or educational background. You can be enrolled in private school, public school or even home school and join. Our competitions are for everyone, with the sole purpose of boosting self-esteem, promoting confidence and enhancing literacy, all while having fun.”
The annual bee and the oratorical competition championed black historical topics such as former President Barack Obama and his major contributions to society.
Dr. Gregory E. Bell, a nationally renowned motivational speaker, educational administrator and founder/CEO of Pursue Excellent, an organization devoted to mentoring adults and at risk youth, served as master of ceremonies.
“When they asked me to be the master of ceremonies, I knew it was my honor,” Bell said. “As a champion for uplifting and guiding youth, I was immediately drawn to Jack and Jill of America’s motto, ‘It’s all about the children,’ because that is what I believe. This event heavily promotes community literacy, self-confidence, and public speaking skills that are all invaluable.”
Jack and Jill of America, Inc. is a nationwide organization with over 230 chapters in 35 states and the District of Columbia, representing over 30,000 family members. The core of the Jack and Jill of America philosophy is that every child, if given the proper guidance and opportunity, can be developed into a leader.
The Montgomery County chapter was established in 1960 and continues to serve as a means to support youth leadership development, cultural awareness, legislative advocacy, financial literacy and community service.