Meet the Gentlemen & Scholars

By DeBartolo Performing Arts Center

[About a 5 MIN read]

GS Spelling Bee Homepage Hero
GS Spelling Bee Homepage Hero

Meet the Gentlemen & Scholars

By DeBartolo Performing Arts Center

[About a 5 MIN read]

The buzz of excitement is palpable as the Gentlemen & Scholars organization prepares for its much-anticipated annual Spelling Bee Explosion. This event, a showcase of dedication and linguistic prowess, invites young scholars from across the South Bend community to step into the spotlight and demonstrate their spelling skills.

Set against the backdrop of community empowerment and academic excellence, this year’s spelling bee not only aims to celebrate the mastery of language but also foster a sense of confidence and achievement among participants.

Delve into the highlights and unforgettable moments of this inspiring community event below.

Can you share the story behind the inception of Gentlemen & Scholars’ annual Spelling Bee Explosion? What inspired you to start this event?

The story behind our annual spelling bee comes from an incident that happened to William Douglas in his childhood.

William Douglas knows that being challenged academically can change a child’s life for the better.

As a young man, his mother refused to let him walk away from a challenge.

“I had an experience with a spelling bee in Chicago in my eighth-grade year,” he said.

His teachers believed that Douglas should participate in the bee, and they called home and told his mother.

“I didn’t want to do it because I didn’t want to be ostracized by my peers,” he said. “By the time I got home, my mom told me that I was going to do it.

“She said that every opportunity you get, you have to let your light shine.”

So Douglas started practicing, with his mother pushing him all the way to a second-place finish.

“I remember that we were battling back and forth, and I can even tell you the word that I missed (inconvenient), and she (the winner) came up and spelled it and won.

“I’ll never forget that for the rest of my life.”

The lessons Douglas took from that event so many years ago have stayed with him. “That spelling bee let me know that I was smart no matter what anybody said,” he said. “That’s something where you stand alone.

“A lot of our neighborhood kids are told that they are not smart or believe that they are not smart and don’t have an avenue to prove it.”

For this reason, we decided to give students in our region an opportunity to share their voice by improving their confidence while competing in an academic competition.

Our role in the community is to provide a mentorship program that offers opportunities for youth to be showcased while giving them access to financial support for their education. We offer the School of Etiquette and LifeSkills program all year to help provide an alternative to self-destructive and wayward decision-making that seems to appeal to this tender generation. We aim to create young ladies and gents while challenging their negative self-connotation by rewiring their mindset. This curriculum implements strategies that encourage children to find their voice and build their self-confidence, so they’ll realize that they are more than adequate.

The Spelling Bee Explosion is just another platform for us to offer a financial element to their educational journey.

The reason our event is called “Spelling Bee Explosion” is because, throughout the academic competition, we offer several components of entertainment, including the “Explosion” piece of this classic event!!

For those interested in participating, they must first be middle school students. This spelling bee is for middle school students in fifth grade through eighth grade. The advice we give to participating students is to have fun with it and don’t get overwhelmed with the study word list; just try to study for at least 20 minutes a day.

We definitely reach out for sponsors to help with the scholarship fund. If anyone would like to sponsor this event, they can reach out to us at

Can you share a memorable moment or a standout story from your past Spelling Bee Explosion events that really encapsulates the spirit of the event?

Clara Pittman won the first annual Spelling Bee Explosion in 2017, and she registered as the last entry that year! Then she returned as the first entry in the 2018 Spelling Bee Explosion and won again!! The very next year, in 2019, she nearly won a third time as she came in as the first runner-up. Hundreds and hundreds of students took a leap of faith and gained confidence to enter the Spelling Bee Explosion after hearing and seeing Clara’s story of success in the spelling bee!!

Join us for the Gentlemen & Scholars’ annual Spelling Bee Explosion on May 5. You won’t want to miss this exciting opportunity to support the South Bend community!

GS Annual Spelling Bee Homepage Feature

May 5 at 3 p.m.

Gentlemen & Scholars Annual Spelling Bee Explosion

The annual Spelling Bee Explosion makes a big move to DPAC’s big stage! Youths from South Bend-area middle schools compete for $2,500 in prizes and pride in the citywide academic event of the spring. The spelling bee, emceed by WNDU’s Joshua Short, is designed to inspire a love for words, develop character, encourage lifelong learning, and celebrate academic achievement.

Categories: Meet The Artist, News + Announcements