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There’s no autocorrect at this Richmond adult spelling bee

Woman in spelling bee stands on stage as audience watches
Podium RVA’s 9th annual adult spelling bee saw a return to in-person competition and lots of bee-themed apparel. (Photo: Ben Paviour/VPM News

Hundreds of precocious teenagers will gather in Maryland later this month for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Closer to home, older adults got to show their phonetic chops at Podium RVA’s Adult Spelling Bee.


Kavin Jackson has done spelling bees before, back in elementary school. He says it didn’t go well.

Jackson: However, I have grown and I do know more words, so hopefully I do a lot better than I did back then.

Jackson is now 22 and sits on the Young Professionals Board of Podium RVA. It’s a non-profit that provides creative writing programs to middle and high school students. Jackson participated as a teen, when he was suffering from depression. 

Jackson: And so they helped me out of a very dark time in my life. And they continue to.

Now Jackson is a regular at Podium’s events. That includes their adult spelling bee fundraiser. Host Mike King gets the event started. 

King: Alrighty. (Applause). Ladies and gentlemen, there will be no shenanigans. Folks will not try and buy us off and, you know, say kind words. 

The first round is forgiving.

Speller: Exceed. E-x-c-e-e-d. exceed.

King: That is correct.

But one by one, the teams start to fall.

Speller: OK. S-A-V-Y. Savvy.

King: Well… 

Eventually there’s just one team left. Richmond City Council member Mike Jones reminds the final speller – Josh Kadrich -- of the stakes.

Jones: You have to spell this correct to win. 

Kadrich: Okay

Jones: Awesome.

When he gets his final word, Kadrich doesn’t hesitate.

Campbell: Jambalaya 

Kadrich: J-a-m-b-a-l-a-y-a

The word was an apt one for Kadrich, who runs a food production company.

Kadrich: I mean, I'm super vegan, but you can make ideal new vegan versions of jambalaya if you just give it a little love.

Kadrich is friends with Podium’s executive director, Vicki Yeroian. She’s the one with yellow pants and a bee antenna on her head. But in some ways…she’s an unlikely host for this event.

Yeroian: Alright, soMy secret is that I'm actually a really awful speller. 

But you know what they say. You can’t spell fundraiser without the word “fun.”

Ben Paviour, VPM News.


Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.