The Scripps National Spelling Bee has a profound influence on the lives of many young people who participate. Year after year, they keep coming back.

Dozens of former spellers will be scattered throughout the live audience when the bee begins Wednesday. Others take on official roles in the competition. The most famous ex-spellers are Jacques Bailly, the pronouncer and public face of the bee; and Paige Kimble, the bee's executive director. They won in back-to-back years: Bailly in 1980, Kimble in 1981.

Some former spellers credit the bee with giving them confidence and changing their career goals. Others just love the competition so much that they stay involved however they can — as officials, coaches or commentators.