Busy bee: Edinburg student to compete at national spelling competition

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Caleb Giuoco, 12, a 7th grader from South Middle School in Edinburg, was the winner of the 36th Annual Regional Spelling Bee sponsored by AIM Media Texas at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance Saturday, March 9, 2024 in Edinburg. (Delcia Lopez| [email protected])

EDINBURG — Caleb Giuoco’s spelling journey, marked by his natural curiosity, learning and talent has led the Edinburg 7th grader to take on his biggest challenge yet, the 96th Scripps National Spelling Bee.

“The full reality of this hasn’t hit me yet,” Caleb said. “It’ll probably hit me when we get to the airport and I’ll realize we’re actually going to Washington D.C.”

Winning the regional spelling bee, presented by AIM Media Texas in early March, Caleb, his parents Frank and Cristina Guioco, and his little sister Ava, will visit Washington D.C to compete next week but all of this started in 3rd grade when Caleb won his elementary school spelling bee.

Describing Caleb winning regionals as an amazing feeling, Cristina said he had earned it with all of the countless hours spent studying words.

“It just went from there, it blossomed into something where he really enjoyed learning the words,” she said. “It wasn’t like work to him. We would sit together and look up each word, Google the meaning. He wanted to know all about the word so it was more like just being interested in the words themselves.”

Frank said his son was always interested in learning things that he doesn’t know.

“So, as the words got more interesting, he liked that,” Frank said. “He has a great memory and he had a natural talent for that kind of thing for this event so he kept doing it, and we were interrupted a little bit by COVID but we got back into it.”

With spelling competitions, contestants usually receive a list of words in alphabetical order which students study.

For the National Spelling Bee, Caleb has a list of about 4,000 words to study for the competition.

After a few preliminary rounds of the competition, participants then have to spell words straight out of the dictionary with no set list of words to study from, a new challenging experience for Caleb.

South Middle School student Caleb Giuoco is seen on Wednesday, May 22, 2024, in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

“It’s kind of dawning on us that this is like a really big deal,” Frank said. “Like he’s the only kid from the Valley who’s going to the competition and it could very well be like a once in a lifetime thing. So we’re really trying to embrace that and just have fun, although next year he might (go again), who knows.”

Some of the words on the list include aerophilatelic, the collection and study of airmail stamps and flown covers, and ardhamagadhi, a Parkirt language of north India used in a large part of the Jain canon.

“A lot of the words, like, connect to some other spelling word,” Caleb said. “One of the words is like Burkinabé, and that is a person from Burkina Faso and the capital of Burkina Faso is Ouagadougou, another spelling word that blew my mind.”

Becoming a family activity in Caleb’s household, his parents and him will go over the list of words, the pronunciation, the etymology and the definitions.

Studying about an hour a day, Caleb’s study time with his parents has increased in preparation for the national competition.

“We’ll talk about if it’s like a weird or interesting word,” Cristina said. “There’s a lot of like words in other languages. There’s Portuguese, Spanish, and a lot of French words.”

Caleb said — feeling worried that he hasn’t studied enough — that he got a chance to interact with the other students in the spelling bee via a Zoom call and chat.

South Middle School student Caleb Giuoco gets a hug from his sister, Ava, 8, on Wednesday, May 22, 2024, in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

“One of the chat messages was like, ‘How many hours do you study every day?’ and I was like, “What? Hours?,’” he said jokingly.

Ava, a second grader, always helps her brother study and hopes to also compete in spelling bees in the coming years following Caleb’s footsteps.

“I feel like he earned it because he worked hard and even though he’ll be like ‘Ugh, we have to study again,’ we always try to help him … I try to, like, advise him,” Ava said. “ We are really proud of him.”

Planning to visit all the historic monuments in D.C., Caleb is excited to be able to try different foods and especially the food words that he has been studying for the competition.

To view the Scripps National Spelling Bee semifinals and finals on May 29-30, the broadcast will be shown on ION. To find ION in your area, go to: https://iontelevision.com/find-us.