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Walnut valley Unified School District

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Diamond Bar teen competes in Scripps National Spelling Bee

Walnut/Diamond Bar Highlander
June 3-9, 2012
By Maritza Velazquez

Diamond Bar teen competes in Scripps National Spelling Bee

DIAMOND BAR - What started as a little competition at his middle school turned into a contest of much larger proportions for 13-year-old Justin Chuang, who was one of just 278 students across the country to make it to the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee this week.

The Chapparal Middle School seventh-grader competed in the first three rounds of the Washington, D.C. contest, but was knocked out of the competition Wednesday, when just 50 participants survived for Thursday's semi-finals.

Scripps officials estimate that the competition, which starts at individual school sites, starts out with roughly 11 million students nationwide.

"To make it to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, students really have to have an affinity for words and an appreciation and understanding for how words are formed," said Scripps spokeswoman Lee Rose.

Chuang, who is active at his middle school as a cello player in the school orchestra and vice president of the campus' Journalism Club, said dedication and a keen interest in the English language is key to success in spelling competitions.

"I think I've been successful because I'm not memorizing words, it's more that I'm figuring out the knowledge behind them," Chuang said. "It's really the message, not pure memorization, but figuring out how to spell words based on meaning and origin."

To qualify for the national spelling bee, which takes place May 29-31, the Diamond Bar resident first won the spelling bee at his school and a subsequent regional spelling bee earlier this year.

"It's really was amazing, because we didn't realize that we could make it this far," said Justin's father David Chuang. "To become already a regional champion and now he's in the national competition, trying to compete. We are very happy for him and also very proud." When asked about the number of youths in the competition, Chuang said it's important to focus on your own goals.

"You know that there are many people (at the competition), but it's not really about them, it's about how far you can go, not how far they can go," he said.

 Chuang likes to read, draw and write in his free time. He has already published his first book, a science-fiction/fantasy titled "The Marrksyrian War." 

He wants to become a genetic engineer someday.

"There are a lot of diseases that we can't cure by just using vaccines and medicine," he said. "A lot of them are hereditary. By using genetic engineering, you can actually alter the DNA sequence that actually causes that."