It could be taken as a sign that after Forest Park District 91 held its first ever district wide spelling bee competition a local student has made it to the big leagues, the famous Scripps National Spelling Bee, proving how a local opportunity can lead to a once-in-a-lifetime moment. 

Emme Whitebone, a seventh grader at Forest Park Middle School, 925 Beloit, will be competing in Washington D.C., hoping to beat out students from across the country and take home the prestigious Scripps Cup, which saw its first competition in 1925. This year’s competition is on May 31 and June 1.

Whitebone,13, is an example to the D91 community on how students should have opportunities beyond the classroom to challenge themselves and see how far they can go, said Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Alvarez, emphasizing that as a district, they never want to limit their students. 

Supt. Elizabeth Alvarez and Emme Whitebone meet once a week to prepare for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, where Whitebone will be competing on national television. | Amaris E. Rodriguez

“I want to continue having these types of competitions to give them opportunities, not only with spelling bee’s but other types, so children can actually compete and be challenged in that way and make sure that we support them,” said Alvarez. “The same way we do for sports, we should do it for academics.” 

To express district support, Alvarez met with Whitebone once a week to help her practice and get ready for the big competition, going over vocab cards and spelling words out of the Merriam-Webster Unabridged dictionary. 

“She is doing really well, she doesn’t need me,” said Alvarez laughing. “She has taught me a couple of words that I didn’t know about.” 

Whitebone’s mother Kyra Tyler, a Forest Parker and current board member on D91’s board of education, said having Alvarez be a hands-on part of Whitebone’s prep for the spelling bee is a huge testament of the district’s support throughout the whole experience. 

“It makes me incredibly happy that we can get some additional support,” Tyler said, who had previously served as board president for D91’s board of education.“This is the ultimate ‘it takes a village,’ so we were really happy to take Dr. Alvarez up on her offer to help.” 

The 13-year-old was not expecting to be headed to the big leagues, as she came in second in her classroom spelling bee. However, after the first-place winner did not want to continue participating, Whitebone moved forward to the next round, the school-wide spelling bee, and continued advancing, eventually placing first in the regional spelling bee. 

“I am kind of nervous, kind of excited,” Whitebone said, adding she is trying not to get her hopes up. 

While she may be spending more time spelling these days, Whitebone is a lover of musical theater, a passion she discovered after participating in a summer camp, and has done various youth theater productions with Ovation Academy for the Performing Arts, 1010 Madison St, Oak Park, including her favorite role of “Marian Paroo,” in the “The Music Man.” Whitebone is also an avid cello player, an instrument she picked up at four years old. 

Whitebone also shared she was asked to speak during the opening ceremony of the event. 

“We are really lucky, my husband and I,” Tyler said. “She makes us proud in every way, shape and form. Whether it is school or the arts or the way she is kind and a good friend. This is just, we never envisioned this, but we are really happy to support her.” 

The two-night event will air on ION on May 31 and June 1 at 7 p.m.