Suburban spellers to participate in Scripps National Spelling Bee

Suburban spellers Sahasrad Sathish and Tejas Katira are among 13 regional spelling bee champions from Illinois who will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee this summer.

Sahasrad, 12, of Grayslake, qualified for the national bee last year but missed the chance to participate in the finals because it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic for the first time since World War II.

The seventh-grader at Lake Forest Country Day School won the Lake County Spelling Bee last month, qualifying him for nationals. He completed a timed 30-minute online test with 30 spelling and 20 vocabulary words along with 11 other participants.

This year, the Scripps National Spelling Bee preliminaries, quarterfinals, and semifinals will be held virtually in the weeks leading up to the July 8 finals at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando. All rounds will be broadcast live on ESPN platforms.

"I am a bit nervous because the first few rounds are going to be virtual," said Sahasrad, who has been competing in spelling bees since third grade. "It's going to be a new experience for me."

Kane County champion

"I'm very excited. It's my first time," said Tejas Katira, 13, of Hoffman Estates, a seventh-grader at Larsen Middle School in Elgin who won the Kane County Spelling Bee last month.

Tejas started participating in spelling bees in fourth grade and is fascinated by words and their origins. He spends two to three hours a day training for nationals.

"I will be a little bit nervous. I'm just ready for the experience," he said.

Tejas is Larsen's first spelling champion.

"Larsen had a spelling bee club, but this is the first time we've had someone go all the way to nationals," said Daniel Affleck, an English, speech and debate teacher helping coach Tejas. "It's very exciting and the fact that he's an eighth-grader next year gives us another opportunity, as well. Tejas is very hardworking. Hopefully, we get more students engaged and want to be involved in the spelling bee."

The Scripps Spelling Bee finals, featuring 10 to 12 spellers, will be held in person and broadcast live in prime time on ESPN2. For more information, visit

Diversity advisory panel

The Daily Herald is seeking readers willing to be part of an advisory panel to help us broaden our understanding and coverage of diverse communities.

We are seeking everyday people of varying ages and from all walks of life who can help us identify stories about underrepresented groups and the important issues affecting them that are not being covered.

The volunteer panel of advisers will help us identify what we do well and where we can improve in better representing the communities we serve within our suburban mosaic. It will meet quarterly with Daily Herald newsroom leaders.

To be considered for the panel, email Diversity Editor Madhu Krishnamurthy at

School board firsts

Two newly elected Barrington Area Unit District 220 school board members - Erin Chan Ding and Steve Wang - made history this week.

They are the first Asian American school board members, and people of color, elected to the District 220 school board since it was formed in 1973.

"Steve and I are the first BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) to be elected to the Barrington 220 school board, which is pretty exciting because students of color make up nearly 40% of the district," said Chan Ding, 39, of South Barrington, a freelance journalist and editor.

District 220's 8,543 students are 60% white, about 18% Hispanic, about 16% Asian, nearly 2% Black, and nearly 4% two or more races, per Illinois Report Card data.

"To now have two people of color on the school board says a lot about representation," said Chan Ding adding, it's important students see themselves in their district leaders and decision-makers.

"It's wonderful that we have ushered in this era where we are a part of this board and we take it as an honor to be elected," added Wang, 36, a finance director from Barrington.

Ramadan tool kit

Two national Muslim groups have created a COVID-19 tool kit for mosques and Islamic centers providing guidance on how to have a safe Ramadan.

The National Muslim Task Force on COVID-19 and the National Black Muslim COVID Coalition jointly issued a community advisory for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which begins after sundown Monday.

Muslims observe fasting from predawn until dusk, abstaining from food, drink, and sensual pleasures during daylight hours for the lunar month, which lasts 29 or 30 days. Typically, worshippers attend nightly prayers at mosques and community centers during the month.

The tool kit provides resources and tips on best practices for managing and attending mosques and Islamic centers for worship, a checklist for reopening, COVID-19 vaccine tips and the permissibility of taking the vaccine while fasting.

To access the tool kit, visit

Mosque inclusivity

Leaders from five Chicago-area mosques will host a series of virtual lectures during Ramadan focused on building inclusive communities.

Sessions will run from 6 to 6:45 p.m. Saturdays on Zoom. Speakers include Azfar Uddin, imam of Islamic Foundation North in Libertyville, Hasan Aly, imam of The Mecca Center of Willowbrook. They will discuss the importance of equity, ethnic diversity and inclusion of women, youth, and people with disabilities in community spaces and their plans to collaborate on future initiatives.

American Sign Language interpretation will be provided by MUHSEN, an Oak Brook-based nonprofit that educates and advocates for inclusive and accessible spaces for people with disabilities in Muslim communities.

Register at

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Tejas Katira, of Hoffman Estates, a seventh-grader at Larsen Middle School in Elgin, is the 2021 Kane County Spelling Bee champion. He will participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee this summer.
Erin Chan Ding
Steve Wang
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