Nine teams participated in the 23rd Annual Mountain Spelling Bee Bash April 25. The Coconino Community College (CCC) Comets won the spelling bee and all proceeds were donated to The Literacy Center. The event also included multiple auctions, a raffle and dinner.

According to The Literacy Center website, the volunteer foundation aims to increase language and literacy proficiency for adults, teens and families. In the last year, 160 volunteers for the center have contributed over 5,000 hours, which has been distributed to approximately 550 learners.

Diana Sanchez, the executive director of The Literacy Center, said the spelling bee helped raise extensive funding and support.

“This is our largest fundraiser of the year, and it provides the vital funds necessary for our programs,” Sanchez said.

She also shared how the spelling bee works with teams of adults and elimination.

“It’s a team format of three adults per team," Sanchez said. "There’s a designated speller that has to stay the same the whole time. Teams are given 40 seconds to consult and then the designated speller spells the word aloud. It’s a single elimination [competition]. If you get the word wrong, you’re out. With the exception of the final round.”

In 2018, The Spellbinders team won the spelling bee. Although they lost on Thursday night, they did take home the annual team spirit award. Gail Lowe is the sponsor of The Spellbinders and she spoke about her experience supporting The Literacy Center.

“[The Literacy Center] has various projects,” Lowe said. “They help people get things like commercial driver’s licenses and [a] GED. They’re a great organization.”

Additionally, according to a presentation from The Literacy Center, 75% of prison inmates have not completed high school. More than 250 male and female inmates in the Flagstaff area have been served by The Literacy Center, giving them higher chances of completing their GED or finding employment.

Lowe also praised the volunteers and staff at The Literacy Center.

“Diana Sanchez does a great job with the organization,” Lowe said. “The board of directors is also fabulous.”

Sanchez also said members of the Flagstaff community can assist and promote The Literacy Center’s work.

“[I want to] encourage people to support The Literacy Center, whether it’s coming to this event, whether it’s making a donation on our website or whether it’s volunteering,” Sanchez said. “There’s lots of ways to help.”