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Kern County Spelling Bee winner to compete at Scripps National Spelling Bee

Jean Bounkousonh will be competing for a $50,000 cash prize at the nation's capital at the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Sun, May 28.
Jean Bounkousonh, Kern County Spelling Bee
Posted at 8:57 AM, Mar 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-16 11:57:06-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Taking a test without studying is a literal nightmare for some people. The student heading to the Scripps National Spelling Bee this year says that's precisely what happened to her.

On the morning of the Greenfield District Spelling Bee competition, Jean Bounkousonh wasn't even entered.

“I hadn’t even studied before that day and really, I didn't expect this at all,” said Jean.

Her teachers were shocked since she had won spelling bees since her elementary years. According to Jean's father, Brandon Bounkousonh, Jean had won first place for five years in a row in elementary school.

With that kind of spelling talent, Jean's school couldn't let her miss out.

“Mrs. Powens had noticed that she [Jean] was not on the list," explained Sheila Johnson, Principal of Ollivier Middle School. "So the day of the spelling bee she called Jean and said 'I expect you to come to my room after school to be a part of the spelling bee,' and Jean said 'I haven’t studied.' She [Mrs. Powens] said 'I don’t care. I’ll see you after school.'”

With that little nudge, Jean represented Ollivier Middle School at the district spelling bee, where she took a rare second place.

“I did feel a little kind of disappointed, but it was fine because I knew that I would be moving forward and I know that I tried my best during the competition,” said Jean about her second-place win.

Her next challenge was the Kern County Spelling Bee, taking first place with her final word of "homage."

“I didn’t really process it at first," said Jean. "I didn’t really understand that I won for a moment.”

That win is now taking her far from Kern County, all the way to the nation's capital of Washington D.C. She will be competing for a $50,000 cash prize.

Jean says that this time, she will study harder.

If Jean wins the prize, she says it would all be going back to her education.

“I'd use it for school," said Jean. “I wanna go into either graphic design or architecture”

Jean will be heading to the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Sun, May 28.

While the competition is around the time she would have her eighth-grade promotion, the faculty at Ollivier Middle School does not want her to miss out. They will hold a special celebration for Jean right before they send her off to the national competition.