make it better

Feb 08

Nolan Smith Finds A New Respect At Schoolhouse Supplies Spelling Bee

By make it better Posted in: makeitbetter, NolanSmith
Photo credit: Joni Shimabukuro

Nolan Smith has been in pressure situations before. After all, he headlined at a top-flight high school program at Oak Hill Academy before playing four years at Duke, the preeminent college hoops program in the world. He's won National Championships and has been named First Team All American, honors that are typically bestowed upon those who have the ability to remain cool and calm under stressful conditions.

But the ability to deal with pressure in one situation doesn't necessarily transfer over to another, as Nolan experienced first-hand Monday night at the OnPoint Community Credit Union Celebrity Spelling Bee at the Portland Art Museum. On stage in front of a few hundred people, likely the smallest crowd he's performed in front of in years, Nolan stumbled while trying to spell "panzer," mistakenly spelling it with an "S" instead of a "Z."

"It's nervous when you're out of your comfort zone," said Smith. "The basket court is our comfort zone, and we zone in. We really don't see anything but what is going on on that court. Spelling bee, you're looking out to the crowd, somebody is putting you on the spot telling you to spell something. On a piece of paper, I probably would have put a "Z" but out loud and in front of everybody, a mic, people looking at me, you definitely get a little nervous, anxious. You want to get it right, but the wrong letter came out."

Though in this case, winning wasn't really the point. The contest was put on to raise money for Schoolhouse Supplies, whose mission is to serve "classrooms in need by operating a volunteer-run free store for teachers, which is stocked with supplies donated by the community," and that goal was achieved to the tune of $209,000 in donations for the non-profit.

"I was sitting there watching the different things (Schoolhouse Supplies) were doing, talking about how much money they bring in and who the money is going to," said Smith. "The backpacks, the crayons, the pencils that all these kids are getting and seeing the smiles on their faces when they receive that stuff. It's going to enhance their education, and that made me feel good being a part of that. There's a lot of kids where I'm from that don't have a backpack to go to school with."

Even though he didn't take home the spelling bee trophy, Nolan still came away a winner by playing a part in such a successful fundraiser that has a direct, tangible effect on the lives of young people in need. And he also came away with a new-found admiration for the kids who compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which takes place in his hometown of Washington DC.

"I definitely have to give a lot of respect to the kids who do it on ESPN," said Smith. "Washington DC for the National Spelling Bee? That's tough. Now I see why it's on ESPN. I used to wonder why, now I see it's more pressure than a pressure free throw, or just as much pressure. It's very tough for those kids to go out there and spell those words right."


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