Yolanda Ni | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Yolanda Ni

(Left to right) Yolanda Ni, MAE President Joyce Helmick and Soyeon Park Photo courtesy MPB

(Left to right) Yolanda Ni, MAE President Joyce Helmick and Soyeon Park Photo courtesy MPB

Yolanda Ni, an eighth-grader at Oak Grove Middle School in the Lamar County School District, won the 2019 Mississippi Spelling Bee on Tuesday, March 19, at the Mississippi Public Broadcasting Auditorium in Jackson. Ni, who has participated in the state spelling bee four times previously, won the competition by correctly spelling the word "apothecary."

The first runner-up was Soyeon Park, an eighth-grader from Armstrong Middle School in the Starkville Oktibbeha School District. Park previously won the Mississippi Spelling Bee in 2017.

"I've been entering the state spelling bee every year since 2016, but this was the first time I've won," Ni told the Jackson Free Press. "At first, I started entering because I have a competitive spirit, and it just seemed like a fun competition, but as I kept entering, I realized that I love spelling and words. Using reasoning skills to figure out words I don't know is one of the trickiest aspects of it but also part of what makes it great."

Ni, 13, has lived in Oak Grove all her life. She enjoys reading fiction books and writing short stories, and has also been playing violin and piano since she was 5 years old.

Her father, Jan Siesling, is a poet and historian who formerly served as director of the Museum of Art at the University of Southern Mississippi. Her mother, Haiyan Tian, is a math professor at USM. Ni also has an older brother named Xiang Long who is working toward a doctorate degree in math from the University of California, Berkeley.

In addition to competing in the Mississippi Spelling Bee, Ni has also entered and won the Lamar County Spelling Bee for four consecutive years since 2016. To prepare for events, Ni has her parents quiz her on words at random and uses Quizlet, an online application that uses flash cards, games and other learning tools to help students study. She has also taken spelling courses under Scott Remer, a spelling bee coach who authored a textbook called "Words of Wisdom: Keys to Success in the Scripps National Spelling Bee."

After winning the Mississippi Spelling Bee, Ni will now move on to compete in the 92nd Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in May.

"Going to Washington, D.C., is going to be amazing," Ni says. "I look forward to meeting a lot of great people there and representing Mississippi to the best of my abilities."

MPB broadcasted the spelling bee live on MPB Television as well as online, and video of the event is available on the organization's website. The Mississippi Association of Educators sponsors the event.

For more information on the Mississippi Spelling Bee, call 601-354-4463 or visit the MAE website at maetoday.org.

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