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Words & Basketball

Zalia Avant-garde is making history in education and sports

Zaila Avant-garde is the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee champ.  / REUTERS

On Thursday, 14-year-old Zalia Avant-garde made history after two years of hard practice by becoming the African American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. She is the first African American to win in the spelling bee’s 96-year history.

Avant-garde successfully won the trophy after spelling the word “murraya” correctly. She’s said that she studies 13,000 words a day which is about seven hours in total, and hopes that her achievements encourage others to become more interested in spelling and education in general.

“It felt really good to win because I have been working on it for like two years. So to actually win the whole thing was like a dream come true,” she told CNN’s “New Day” on Friday. “I felt like in the moment I snapped out of a surreal dream.” The prize for winning the bee is $50,000.

Spelling isn’t the only talent of this Louisiana-raised girl. This isn’t even her first history-making moment. Avant-garde is also a great basketball player who has three world records for her ball handling skills, one being the “Most bounce juggles in one minute” (three basketballs). In a video on the official Guinness World Record Twitter page, Avant-garde said that she began wanting a place in this book of legends since her parents got her a Guinness world record book for her eighth birthday.

With a love for words, a talent for spelling and basketball, and unshakable determination, Avant-grande’s skills are obviously well ranged and so are her goals. She hopes to one day attend Harvard University, be drafted into the WNBA, and maybe even work with NASA someday. She also hopes that others take all her accomplishments as inspiration.


By Kendal Amos, Sophomore, Little Black Pearl

Instagram: Kendal.amos

Written by Kendal Amos

16 years old. Reader/writer/lame musical enthusiast

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