First African American to win National Spelling Bee gets full scholarships offers


Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from Harvey, Louisiana reacts after correctly spelling a word during the finals of the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee at Disney World Thursday, July 8, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

BATON ROUGE, La. (NewsNation Now) — At least two full ride scholarships to awaits Zaila Avant-garde, the teenager who last week became the first African American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Since winning, the 14-year-old, Harvey, Louisiana native, is continuing to collect plaudits. She’s received scholarships from two Louisiana State University and Southern University, both located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“Your academic performance reflected scholarship first! You modeled intellectual excellence,” LSU President William F. Tate IV tweeted Saturday.

According to Southern, the university “will work to schedule a personalized “Zaila Day” on campus, where Avant-garde can meet with student leaders, faculty, alumni and more,” SU President Ray L. Belton tweeted.

Avant-garde has described spelling as a side hobby, although she routinely practiced for seven hours a day. She is a basketball prodigy who hopes to play in the WNBA. She also holds three Guinness World Records for dribbling multiple balls simultaneously. 

Avant-garde competed against 208 other contestants from five countries to win the championship. She won last Thursday night’s final by correctly spelling the word murraya, a type of tree.

The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WVLA contributed to this report.

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