ray spelling bee

Joseph Cavicchia (center) with Megan Thole (left), principal of Ray School, and Jenny Wejman (right), the spelling bee coordinator at Ray. 

Sixth-grader Joseph Cavicchia from Ray School, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave., competed in the Chicago Spelling Bee today at Hyde Park Academy.

Cavicchia, 11, won the Ray spelling bee on the word “presidential.” He then had to take a vocabulary test to qualify for the Chicago Public Schools competition, along with 46 other students from around the city.

The winner was a 5th grade student from Disney Magnet School, who won on the word "zazen," a type of meditation practiced in Zen Buddhism. 

After qualifying, Cavicchia studied word lists with his father. To help with memorization, he would read a word before trying to spell it.

A few of the words he learned include “gyttja” (derived from the Swedish, it refers to black mud with lots of organic matter, often found at the bottom of a lake) and “digerati” (a neologism from the 1990s describing the digital elite).

Cavicchia likes to read manga, including My Hero Academia and Shonen Jump. He found his favorite issue of the latter at a yard sale — “how a lot of things enter my life,” he said, like magnets and circuit boards.

Cavicchia also likes to play video games, and has two pets: a turtle named Pete and a rat terrier named Darla. (“I had about 19 fish but they all died, like with all pet fish,” he added.)


Christian Belanger graduated from the University of Chicago in 2017. He has previously written for South Side Weekly, Chicago magazine and the Chicago Reader.

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