When Sash Davis turned two, he only knew four or five words in Russian and would communicate with his mother by pointing.
Today the Leetonia seventh-grader, who was born in Ukraine, is preparing to travel to Washington D.C. to compete in the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee as Columbiana County's 2013 representative.
Rosalie Davis, Sash's mother, adopted him when he was two from the Ukrainian orphanage where he had spent most of his life Rosalie said growing up in an orphanage had left Sash with speech delays, so she began teaching him English almost immediately. It didn't take him long to catch on.
"By the time he was in kindergarten he already could read a 100 words and tested into the advanced level," said Rosalie. "From [age] two to four, wow, he just took off."
Today, Sash continues to prove his stellar language skills, especially in spelling. He won first place at the county spelling bee in March, an experience he described as "really, really awesome." He participated in the county bee last year, but just missed out on the national competition when he placed second. Davis said this motivated him to work even harder before this year's bee.
"I studied longer. I got more into it because I realized how fun it was," said Sash.
The national competition takes place Tuesday through Thursday, and Sash will compete against 280 other students age 8-14. He is a little wary of his fellow champion spellers, but he also looks forward to competing.
"I'm feeling really nervous because I don't really know how other kids studied, or how much they know," Sash said. "But I'm also excited because I get to see how other people compete."
Sash may not know how the competition studies, but he certainly has his own routine down. He said he uses the word lists and practice tests provided to all competitors to study, but often he just uses a dictionary.
"I study an hour every night, more on weekends," said Sash. "I go in alphabetical order. I study 50-100 words under each letter at a time."
But it's not all work and no play for Sash. Sash, accompanied by Rosalie, will be in D.C. for a week, so they plan to go site seeing on days he is not participating in the three-day competition.
His trip is co-sponsored by the Salem News, Morning Journal and Evening Review. The three Ogden county-based newspapers sponsor the annual Columbiana County Spelling Bee.
"We're going to see the Smithsonian, the Washington Monument, see a bunch of cool stuff," said Sash. "It's a privilege to go."
This will be a nice break before the three days of competition. The national competition consists of three preliminary rounds, two semifinals, and then the final round on the last day of the competition. But the national level of the competition does have a major perk for Sash.
"It's on TV, and that's one of my dreams," said Sash.
Whether he wins or loses, Sash said he is happy with the knowledge he has gained from this experience, and he hopes it will help him in the future on the SAT and ACT tests. And no matter what, he plans on competing in the bee next year and "working twice as hard."
And as for his mother, she just thinks it's great that he has come so far.
"I hope he keeps going. I think he has so many possibilities," said Rosalie. "He could go far."
- Alexa Carson is a summer intern at the Salem News. The 2011 United Local graduate is a junior at The Ohio State University. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.