2006-05-03 / Front Page

Joe wins!

Reader's Digest National Word Power Challenge
By Diana Royal True Citizen Staff Writer

Joe Shepherd, far right, is pictured with NBC's Al Roker, his parents, Scott and Sydney, and his siblings, from left, Warren, Louisa, Jack, Joyce Anna, George, Gracie, Kitty and Cam. Joe Shepherd, far right, is pictured with NBC's Al Roker, his parents, Scott and Sydney, and his siblings, from left, Warren, Louisa, Jack, Joyce Anna, George, Gracie, Kitty and Cam. Everyone knows that Joe Shepherd can spell victory, but now he's got one under his belt that's earned him $25,000.

The 14-year-old home-schooled student competed in the Reader's Digest National Word Power Challenge last week, picking up the top spot plus a $25,000 scholarship.

"We were so excited," Joe's mother, Sydney, said, while explaining the competition consisted of three rounds, spread over the course of two days. "We were saying, 'Wow, he's made it this far' after each round, but we didn't expect him to win the whole thing."

At the championship competition in Orlando, 52 winners, one from each state, went head-to-head. To get that far, Joe had to beat out 100 others during the Georgia state championship held in March

After winning the national title on the last question of the final round, Joe and his father, Scott, were swept away to New York where they had a chauffeured vehicle waiting. Joe appeared on NBC's Today Show where he was interviewed by Al Roker who served as quiz master for the competition.

Joe enjoyed touring New York City and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but he says he's glad to be back in Waynesboro and away from the "fast-paced" city and star treatment.

"It was a tough competition," Joe said modestly, "but it was really fun."

So what's ahead for Joe now, aside from getting back to his chores at home?

According to him, he's going to turn his focus to numbers now. "There are some math competitions I'm interested in," he said.

Over the years, Joe has raked in more than $3,000 worth of prize money in various competitions. The four-time Scripps Howard spelling bee regional winner also picked up $50 from his sister, Gracie, who promised him the money if he won.

Unlike some teenagers who would demand expensive computers or even cars for such an accomplishment, Sydney said Joe wants a real Indiana Jones hat.

Producers from Al Roker Productions have been in Waynesboro, interviewing Joe in his hometown. The National Word Power Challenge will appear on NBC later this month.

Joe will also be receiving a special recognition soon from Governor Sonny Purdue.

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