July 16, 2021

Meet the First African-American Spelling Bee Champ

For the first time in the history of the Scripps Spelling Bee, an African-American contestant has won the prestigious title.

Earlier this month, 14-year-old Zaila Avant-garde of Harvey, Louisiana won the 93rd annual competition held in Bay Lake, Florida. She was one of 209 contestants to partake in the largely virtual competition.

Ultimately, she clinched the title – and the $50 000 prize that goes with it – after correctly spelling the word “murraya”, a genus of flowering plants. The runner-up, Chaitra Thummala, took home $25 000 after misspelling “neroli”.

Speaking to a US media outlet about her victory, Avant-garde said: “It felt, like, really good to become a winner simply because of the fact that I’ve been working on it for like two years, and then to finally have it like the best possible outcome was really good.”

The champion, who hopes to attend Harvard University one day, added: “I’m hoping that in a few years I’ll see a whole lot more African American females – and males, too – doing well in the Scripps Spelling Bee … [it’s] kind of a gate-opener to be interested in education.”

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