Kimberly Dickey said she has seen a lot in her 12 years of life.
She has spelled a lot, too.
The South Dale Middle School sixth-grader won the Dale County Spelling Bee last week at Fort Rucker, making her a candidate for the state spelling bee later this year.
Kimberly said she competed against four other students throughout the county and won after about 15 minutes by spelling the word, “mariachi.”
The competition came a little less than two weeks after Kimberly witnessed a man come onto her school bus and fatally shoot her bus driver before fleeing with a 6-year-old boy late last month.
Kimberly said that day was the worst in her life so far, but that she used chores and studying to overcome the images so she could focus on preparing for her spelling bee.
She said the best day in her life was when she won.
“It was just a good experience,” Kimberly said.
“Because I won, it gets held at my school next year and that makes me feel good because I know everybody knows I’m the reason it gets hosted here. I’m excited because if I win state, I can go to the nationals.”
Kimberly said she studied one of about 12 pages of words for 15 minutes a day with her friends so she would do well in the spelling bee.
South Dale librarian Celina Dodson said Kimberly was selected to represent the school after more than 80 students at the school participated in a preliminary spelling bee event. Five students from each grade were then selected to compete against each other, with Kimberly becoming the school’s overall winner.
Dodson said Kimberly’s success at the county spelling bee came as no surprise.
Neither did Kimberly’s winning startle South Dale reading and science teacher Lisa Till.
“Kimberly has no problem doing anything she puts her mind to,” Till said.
“She’s very dedicated and very self-driven. She’s a wonderful girl. She’s got a sweet heart.”
Kimberly’s mother, Carol Sheppard, and her sister, Amber, said they rejoiced after the spelling bee with a trip to the mall and a meal at Cheddar's with South Dale Principal David West.
Kimberly said she was in shock after she won the estimated 15-minute competition.
“I just stood there like, ‘wow.’ In disbelief,” she said.