Spelling Bee Champ Zaila Avant-garde Offered Full Scholarship at LSU

Photo: (Photo : JIM WATSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Louisiana teenager Zaila Avant-garde made history after she became the first African-American winner of the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Following her impressive academic performance, the president of the Louisiana State University (LSU) offered the 14-year-old a full scholarship.

Avant-garde grabbed the headlines and earned global praise after she spelled "Murraya" correctly during the 93rd edition of the spelling bee, which was held in Florida on July 8. LSU President William F. Tate IV immediately posted a tweet to offer the 14-year-old a scholarship, citing that she "modeled intellectual excellence" after beating 208 contestants in 18 rounds.


"I write to offer you a full scholarship to attend LSU," Tate said, adding that the premier university will wait for Avant-garde when she graduates.

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However, the teenager told CNN that she hopes to become a member of Harvard University's women's basketball team one day and head to the NBA to coach players. She also expressed an ambition to chart a career in NASA or become an expert in neuroscience or gene editing.

A Consistent Achiever

For winning the spelling bee, Avant-garde will take home $50,000 in cash prize. She said that some of the hardest words she had to spell at the contest were "solidungulate," "querimonious" and "Nepeta." Apart from being a master speller, the active teen has been a consistent achiever as a little girl.

She is one of the top basketball prospects in America and holds three basketball-related Guinness World Records. She also has a Guinness World Record for juggling and won a silver medal during the 2020 International Jugglers' Association championship as an elite unicyclist and juggler.

Online, Avant-garde loves to share videos of herself while playing basketball. She admits she loves to look out for new challenges and eyes a variety of interests.

Still Settling In

In an interview with People, the spelling champ revealed that she still cannot believe she won the prestigious national spelling bee competition and she's still trying to process the whole thing. The youngster said that she hopes her feat will inspire a lot of people, "especially African-Americans girls." The Scripps National Spelling Bee board also hopes that other people will see Avant-garde's win as an inspiration with many young African-Americans trying out in the competition next year.

In the bee's long history, the only other African-American to make it through the finals was MacNolia Cox, a 13-year-old from Ohio. In 1936, she was one of the last five contestants to remain on the stage but lost her shot at the grand prize after she misspelled the word "Nemesis."

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In 1988, Jamaican Jody-Anne Maxwell, 12, also made history as the first Black, non-American spelling bee champ. In 2018, reports emerged that Maxwell earned her Doctor of Jurisprudence Law degree. She studied at the Chicago-Kent College of Law but it is not known where she's based today.

Every year, hundreds of children sign up for the spelling bee after training for an average of two years. A lot of the winners use their prize money for college or have gained scholarships from the best schools in the U.S.

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