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February 11, 2017

(L-R): Runner-Up, Caleb Ekanem, and NCSS 2017 Spelling Bee Champion, Jet Rawls.

For the third consecutive year, Indian Creek Middle School eight-grader Jet Rawls is the Newton County School System’s (NCSS) top speller. The 2017 champion also walked away with the winner’s trophy in 2016 and 2015. He was a school-level champion in fourth and fifth grade, too. As the NCSS champion, Rawls will represent the school system in the District 5 Regional Spelling Bee on Saturday, February 25, 2017, at Edwards Middle School in Conyers, Georgia.

His ultimate goal, and something he’s worked for since winning the East Newton Elementary School spelling bee in fourth grade, is to compete in the national spelling bee in Washington, D.C. Each year he’s moved one step closer. In fourth and fifth grade he was a school level champion; in sixth grade he won the district bee. Last year, as a seventh-grader and once again NCSS champion, Rawls won the regional spelling bee and placed fifth at the state spelling bee. Ask him his goal this year and he answers without hesitation.

“My goal is to make it to D.C.,” he said, noting that he finds the bees both fun and a challenge.

Even though he practices about two hours a day studying numerous spelling lists from previous local, state, and even the national bee, he admitted this year was a little bit tougher than previous years. 

“I was pretty nervous this time,” said Rawls. “My friend from elementary school, Ray Holt, was in this bee and so was my sister so there was the idea of battling people close to me. Plus, the thought of trying to win for three years in a row was also there. I knew it would be a struggle and the words seemed tougher than normal, too.”

In fact, when the competition was narrowed down in the final round to just Rawls and Caleb Ekanem, from the Newton County Theme School, it looked like Rawls might not take home his third winner’s trophy when he misspelled the word, “eczema.” He heaved a sigh of relief when Ekanem stepped to the microphone and misspelled the word, “carcinogen.”

From there, the two battled for several more rounds before Ekanem stumbled on the word, “condolence.” When Rawls correctly spelled the next two words, “consternation,” and “inertia” he was pronounced the NCSS 2017 Spelling Bee champion.

“Spelling is an important skill to have and I congratulate both Caleb and Jet on a job well done,” said NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey. “They represented their schools very well and should be very proud of their accomplishments.”

Fuhrey added, “To win the district spelling bee three years in a row is an outstanding accomplishment that Jet should be very proud of. I have enjoyed watching him participate in the district bee since he was eligible in elementary school and have been impressed by how he has challenged himself each year to learn new words and add to his very expansive vocabulary. I am extremely proud of him and wish him the very best at the regional spelling bee. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he attains his goal of competing in the National Spelling Bee!”

For more information, contact Ms. Sherri Davis-Viniard, Director of Public Relations for Newton County Schools, at