Meet the suburban spellers heading to the Scripps national bee
Four suburban spellers who won regional contests now will compete for the coveted championship at the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., later this month.
Meet our young contenders:
• Srinidhi Rao, 13, of Hinsdale, a seventh-grader at Hinsdale Middle School.
• Francis Nnodi, 14, of Carpentersville, an eighth-grader at St. Catherine of Siena School in West Dundee.
• Vishrut Kinikar, 13, of Cary, a seventh-grader at Cary Junior High School.
• Daphne Gil, 14, an eighth-grader at Alan B. Shepard Middle School in Deerfield.
Srinidhi has been to nationals twice, previously competing as a third-grader in 2019, when she tied for 51st place, and as a fifth-grader in 2021, tying for 111th place.
"She could spell (complex words) when she was in the high chair," said her mom, Leelaa Rao, a portfolio manager.
Srinidhi studies words from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, practicing two to three hours during weekdays and five to six hours over weekends, while her mom quizzes her.
"She hardly goes to sleep," Leelaa Rao said.
Srinidhi was only 9 at her first time at nationals, 11 on her second attempt. Though taking the Scripps stage still makes her nervous, Srinidhi hopes her third time will be a charm.
"I'll do my best," she said. "I am working very hard. I understand language rules better. I'm making it a point to learn the definitions of the words. I'm learning so much about different cultures, religions and subjects -- medicine, botany, zoology, astronomy and many more."
It's Francis' first time qualifying for the national spelling bee.
He started preparing for it a few months ago.
"This year is the first year our school started doing spelling bees," he said. "It started off with our class spelling bee, and I just wanted to try my best. So I kept (competing)."
Francis says he's not really passionate about spelling and his favorite subject is social studies.
"I think it's a great accomplishment," he said. "It's hard for me to believe that I've gotten this far. I have a good memory."
Though nervous about competing on a national stage, Francis also is excited about the experience. His parents, Adolphus and Catherine, will be cheering him on from the sidelines.
"They are excited," Francis said.
Vishrut has multiple school spelling bee wins under his belt since third grade, and he won the McHenry County spelling bee for the first time this year.
"It feels really great," Vishrut told the Northwest Herald. "I studied a lot to win this."
He is the county's first representative in a couple of years at nationals.
Aside from spelling, Vishrut's passions include math and physics. He also loves reading, playing the guitar and chess.
Daphne's path to nationals came after she successively won her class, school, sectional and regional bees this year.
She is fluent in Hebrew and has been scouring the Scripps' sprawling word list in preparation for her first trip to nationals.
The Scripps National Spelling Bee champion takes home a $50,000 cash prize, a commemorative medal and the Scripps Cup, the official championship trophy, according to the contest website.
Bee preliminaries will begin at 8 a.m. May 30; quarterfinals at 7 a.m. May 31; semifinals at 7 p.m. May 31; and finals at 7 p.m. June 1. All rounds of the competition will air live on ION Television.
Project OneTen, a Chicago nonprofit dedicated to strengthening the academic foundation for boys of color during their transition to high school, is seeking mentors to apply for its 2023-24 cohort.
Mentors are a key component of the Freshman Success Program. The yearlong program pairs each student with a dedicated mentor, an academic coach, a supportive cohort of peers, a community of volunteers and partners. It helps equip young men of color with the tools they need for success in school and beyond.
Black and Latino boys often fall behind in academic achievement in their first year of high school, which leads to higher risk of drop out and/or delayed graduation, research shows.
Project OneTen provides mentors with training and resources, a developmental relationship framework, and a supportive community of other mentors and students. Prospective mentors should be at least 25 years old, able to commit to at least four hours a month with mentees and monitor their growth throughout the year, attend two training sessions, and go to a summer camp Aug. 12-13.
To apply or for more information, visit projectoneten.org/mentor.
Bonchon Fried Chicken is the newest business at Aurora's Pacifica Square, a large Asian-themed shopping center on the city's far east side. Bonchon, founded in 2002 in South Korea, is a popular fried chicken franchise operating in 21 states and eight countries.
- Courtesy of City of Aurora
Aurora leaders recently marked Asian American & Pacific Islander Month by welcoming two AAPI-owned businesses, along with a community cultural celebration featuring performances and more than 30 ethnic food and artisan vendors.
Sharetea and Bonchon Fried Chicken are the newest businesses at Aurora's Pacifica Square, a large Asian-themed shopping center on the city's far east side.
Established in 1992 in Taiwan, Sharetea is a premium bubble tea company with global locations. Bonchon, founded in 2002 in South Korea, is a popular fried chicken franchise operating in 21 states and eight countries.
Mayor Richard Irvin issued an official AAPI Month proclamation.
Online reservations for vendor and exhibitor booths are open for the ISNA Bazaar at the 60th annual Islamic Society of North America Convention, scheduled Sept. 1-4 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.
Thousands of Muslims from across North America flock to the convention each year. This year's bazaar is expected to have more than 500 booths. All booths are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
For more information or to reserve a booth, visit https://isna.net.
Judson University's World Leaders Forum Inspirational Series will feature special guest Dr. Shawna Pandya on Oct. 12, at the school's Elgin campus.
Pandya, a Canadian, left a career in neurosurgery to complete Scientist Astronaut Candidate training in 2015 with Project POSSUM (Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere) and was part of the first crew to test a commercial spacesuit in zero gravity.
In 2016, Pandya was named as prime crew for Project Poseidon, which aims to further ocean and space exploration, while setting a world record for "most days spent under the sea."
She also received the Global Women of Vision Award in 2016.
Her talks focus on resilience and the lifelong learning she came to embrace from her time with the Navy SEALs, martial arts, medicine, astronauts and her father, according to a news release.
The Oct. 12 event will begin at 5 p.m. in Judson's Herrick Chapel, 1151 N. State St. It will be hosted by entrepreneur, author and Latina pilot Jacqueline Ruiz.
Tickets are on sale now. General admission is $50. VIP ticket is $500 and includes an hors d'oeuvres meet-and-greet reception and photo opportunity at 3:30 p.m. To purchase tickets, visit https://tinyurl.com/28knh2k7.
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