WHYY-Billy Penn Regional Spelling Bee 2023 winner Jack Jiang leaps into the air after winning first place. (Daniel Burke for WHYY)

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Two Philadelphia students are heading to Washington, D.C. this spring to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

They are Jack Jiang, an eighth grader from Newlin Fell School in South Philadelphia, and Arielle Dahan, a fifth grader from Vare-Washington Elementary, also in South Philly.

WHYY and Billy Penn hosted the regional bee championships for the second year on Saturday at WHYY headquarters in Old City, welcoming 24 talented spellers from two dozen public, charter, and independent schools across the city.

Each of the students had already won their local bee held at their school, so they each received a medal upon arriving. After they were seated, the field slowly narrowed as the fifth through eighth graders did their best to sound out the various adjectives, nouns, and verbs that make up the official list.

When there were just four contestants left, the students all appeared evenly matched as they went through round after round, spelling one another down for nearly an hour.

As the contest stretched on, pronouncer Avi-Wolfman Arent conferred often on where to start in the official word list with the trio of judges: author and ETS global marketer Jobert E. Abueva, Better Civics founder and Campus Philly VP Jen Devor, and novelist and Haverford professor Asali Solomon.

A contestant has to spell at least two words correctly to be deemed the winner, according to the official Scripps rules, and though each of the four finalists had a chance to take the title, it just wasn’t happening. 

Finally, Jack emerged victorious.

After spelling his last word (which we aren’t yet supposed to reveal), Jack jumped high in the air on stage as he realized he’d won.

After a few more rounds, Arielle was able to secure second place.

WHYY-Billy Penn Regional Spelling Bee 2023 second place winner Arielle Dahan. (Daniel Burke for WHYY)

WHYY and Billy Penn host the South Jersey Regional Spelling Bee this Saturday at Camden High School. The Scripps National Spelling Bee takes place May 30 to June 1. You’ll be able to watch all the bees on WHYY TV-12 this spring; stay tuned for airdate. 

Update: Turns out we are not supposed to reveal any of the words used in the competition, since other regionals are still happening across the nation. Apologies for this required change.

Tap below to see the full list of students who participated, and scroll down for photos from the event.

WHYY-Billy Penn Regional Spelling Bee 2023 participants
  • Laurene Addo, Ad Prima Charter School 
  • Jomana Mettoui, Chester A Arthur
  • Gianna Mendys, Bridesburg Elementary
  • Mekhribon Ravshanova, Comly Watson School
  • Emma Weill-Jones, Cook-Wissahickon School
  • Jack Jiang, D. Newlin Fell School
  • Jose Delgado, Medina Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences
  • Mahasin Gibson, Edwin Forrest School
  • Jaylah Brown, Global Leadership Academy CS
  • Kany Gakou, Samuel Gompers School
  • Ananya Thomas, Joseph Greenberg School
  • Ahmat Charfadine, Hill Freedman World Academy
  • Nathan Yaw, Henry E. Houston School
  • Evelyn Milosav, William H. Loesche School
  • Jeremiah Danie,l Mast Community Charter School
  • Mohamed Adam, Benheddi Mast Community Charter School II
  • Timothy Thorn, Mast Community Charter School III
  • Siddiq Burton, Middle Years Alternative School
  • Samuel Powe,l Champion Samuel Powel School
  • Koniba Berthe, Southwest Leadership Academy
  • Arielle Dahan, Vare-Washington Elementary School
  • Selamawit Shareef-Trudeau, Wissahickon Charter School-Awbury
  • Jayden Jiang, Philadelphia Performing Arts CS
  • Zachariah Nazir, Fox Chase Elementary School