South Asian-American Students Dominate the Scripps Spelling Bee

May 21, 2018


Think you are ready to compete with some grammar school students on stage at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Well, here are a few words to warm up. How do you spell "cheiropompholyx"? I feel certain you got that one, so take your best shot at "tchefuncte" or "durchkomponiert". Those were just three of the words that 12-year-old Ananya Vinay had to spell to become the 2017 champion. The Fresno student also became the first solo champion in four years (co-champions 2014, 2015 and 2016) and thirteenth consecutive champion of South Asian-American decent.

One thing is for sure. Decades of winning never go unnoticed and the streak of Indian-American contestants standing on top of the podium at the annual event has some reporters comparing it to that of the Yankees during the 1920s or maybe the Chicago Bull team led by Michael Jordan during the 90s. After all, streaks don't just happen. They typically result from years of an organization's investment in getting the right personnel in place to take full advantage of the special talent they recruit. Enter the North South Foundation (NSF), an India-based nonprofit that began hosting events for brain sports over twenty-five years ago.

Culturally the parents and grandparents, many of whom grew up in India, have instilled a strong sense value as to the opportunities that a good education can bring. But, make no mistake about it, these are some of America's most dedicated young learners. They spend the same kind of time practicing and preparing for spelling bees that other children afford their passion. Moreover, there is a lot of family and community support. The parents of a previous winner are known to pass down learning materials to the next child in line or one of their neighbor's children.

If you breezed past the three words provided and haven't finished the eighth grade, you can visit the National Spelling Bee website to take an online test to determine whether you have what it takes to be a national finalist. The 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee is slated for May 29-31 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in the Washington D.C. area.

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