Making a book come to life: Illustrator to feature local students in new project

Children's book illustrator E.B. Lewis (top) takes photographs of Jane Edwards Elementary fifth-grader Dre'Shawn Brown and second-grader Aiyana Daniels for his upcoming book, 'Under the Baobab Tree.'

Diette Courrege

University of South Carolina student Vera Swain might not have all the answers, but she knew the questions well enough to land a spot on the "Jeopardy!" 2008 College Championship, a two-week series that begins Monday.

Swain, 21, who graduated from West Ashley High School in 2005, said she'll first appear on the show Tuesday. The series runs from May 5-16 on WCBD-TV, Channel 2.

Each of the 15 contestants will appear in one of five episodes during the first week of the championship. The winners of those shows, along with the next four highest money winners, will go on to the semifinals and finals in the second week.

Swain said she's been watching and playing along with "Jeopardy!" since she was in elementary school. "It's my favorite game show," she said.

When the USC junior learned in October that the show was looking for contestants, she applied online. She was selected to audition live in Nashville, Tenn., in November, where she landed a spot in the championship.

The championship shows were taped April 11 and 12 at the University of Wisconsin's Kohl Center.

But contestants aren't allowed to comment on how they did or whether they made it to the semifinals, until after the show airs.

The grand-prize winner will get $100,000. The second-place contestant will receive a minimum of $50,000, and the third-place winner gets at least of $25,000. Semifinalists will earn $10,000, and players eliminated the first week get $5,000.

Swain said she's good at the game because "I retain knowledge easily."

She's the kind of person who looks things up when she wonders about them instead of letting the thought or question pass, she said.

Swain graduated 11th in her class at West Ashley High School, and she landed a Palmetto Fellows college scholarship, the state's richest and most competitive award.

Still, she has a few weak spots, she said, including chemistry, physics and ancient history.

The championship taping, she said, was "one of the best times of my life."

It was "nerve-wracking" at first, she said. "But once you get on that stage, all you focus on is the game."