Shelby teen to represent state in spelling bee
BIRMINGHAM (AP) — Grace Pyo has spelling words on her iPod and practices spelling about two hours daily, but she is adamant about one thing.
"Spelling is not my life," said Pyo, 14. "I don't want to be a spelling zombie."
Pyo, a home-schooled eighth-grader from Shelby County, will represent Alabama in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which begins Wednesday in Washington. She won the state spelling bee in March.
To get ready, Pyo has been delving into Greek and continuing her study of Latin root meanings, which make up many English words.
She has a dictionary and a spelling bee study guide the size of a phone book, and a three-ring binder with her favorite words stuck to the front.
Pyo said her training also includes walks with her mom and prayer time.
"My parents don't pressure me at all," said Grace, who used to compete with her brother to see who could get up earliest in the morning. "They are very encouraging. I like competition, and I like to do things well."
The Pyos are aware of the stereotype of high-achieving Asian students. However, Thuy, from Vietnam, and Ken, from Korea, say they challenge their cultural expectation.
Thuy was content with a bachelor's degree, while her parents had hoped she would earn a master's degree. Ken is a division manager for Honda.
"My advice to Grace is to relax, chill, be 14," Thuy said. "Sometimes she mothers her younger brothers and sisters, and we have to remind her that her father and I are here, and we can do the job. We have lots of jokes at home to get her to relax."
Pyo says she won't be devastated if she doesn't win.
"My goal was to get to the nationals," Grace said. "No matter how high I place, I'll be happy with it. But I would like to make it to the ESPN semifinal round in the morning, or the finals on ABC that night. They do your hair and makeup!"
Both broadcasts are Thursday, May 31.
Information from: The Birmingham News
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