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Going back to back, CP teen tackles geography, spelling bees

National Geography Bee

May 20-22, Washington, D.C.

National Geographic Channel

Scripps National Spelling Bee

May 28-30, Washington D.C., ESPN2

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Updated: May 22, 2013 12:35PM



CROWN POINT — For Sean Ives, a gift from his grandparents an ocean away ignited a passion that still guides his compass.

Ives, 13, received a globe from his grandparents when he was a first-grader studying in Kosice, Slovakia, where father Rob Ives worked as a manager at a U.S. Steel plant.

Born in Valparaiso when his father worked at U.S. Steel’s Gary mill, Sean Ives is used to moving around. His family left Porter County when he was 4 for Slovakia, then moved to Belgrade, Serbia. From there, dad’s job took them to Philadelphia, Pa., and then Plymouth, Mich.

When the family moved to Crown Point last year, Jodi Ives she focused on finding a school that offered geography and spelling competitions to satisfy Sean’s interests. They settled on Trinity Evangelical Lutheran School where Sean, the oldest of three kids, is a seventh-grader.

His affinity for geography paid off. Last month, he won the Indiana Geographic Bee over 99 other kids. On Sunday, the family traveled to Washington where Sean tested his mettle in the National Geographic Bee.

While Sean did not make the finals in that competition, he will remain in Washington as one of 280 qualifiers, including a dozen from Indiana, in the Scripps National Spelling Bee May 28-30.

“For him, it’s fun. For me, it’s nerve-wracking,” says Jodi Ives of her son’s academic adventures.

Sean, a lanky teen who also likes Nintendo, basketball and football, has used his family’s travels to his best advantage in the geography competition. “Sometimes, I can recognize landmarks because I’ve been there,” he says.

Sean has amazed his social studies teacher, Arron Lehman, as well. “I take no credit for him. He just loves it. He has an ability to retain things.” Lehman accompanied Sean to the Geographic Bee, as well.

Sean began competing in spelling as outgrowth from schoolwide meets.

His language arts teacher, Christine Miller, says she’ll often toss out an unfamiliar word during class and watch Sean break it down. “I can see him decoding it, we get a big kick out of stumping him.”

Sean’s accomplishments have impressed his friends, as well.

“His classmates, who can be divided on many issues, are behind him on this,” says Miller.

Sean downplays his jitters, but admits he has them. “I’m nervous, but it wears off.”



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