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Zaila Avant-garde Makes History As The First African-American To Win Scripps National Spelling Bee

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Jul. 14 2021, Published 5:00 a.m. ET

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Today, most 8th graders would use their leisure time to watch YouTube videos or create cool dances on TikTok. For Zaila Avant-garde, she studied words for 7 hours each day with the goal to win a Scripps National Spelling Bee. 

“M-U-R-R-A-Y-A”, spelled Zaila Avant-garde, crowning her as the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee Winner. Her spelling bee win also broke history for the competition. At 14 years old, she became the first African-American winner in the nearly 100-year history after beginning to study for it only two years ago, first home schooled winner since 2000, and the first winner from Louisiana ever!

The only other Black winner of the national spelling bee was Jody-Anne Maxwell who represented Jamaica in 1998. Over 20 years later, Zaila made headlines for breaking history and confidently represented the Black community while accepting her win, which included $50,000 in cash as her prize. 

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“That felt really good because I’m hoping in a few years I see a lot of African-American females and males too, doing well in the Scripps Spelling Bee. It’s kind of sad how there’s a great lack of African-Americans in the spelling bee.” said Zaila when sharing her feelings towards her achievement with Good Morning America. 

Winning a national spelling bee competition is another achievement to add to her list. Avant-garde also holds three Guinness World Records including one for the most number of bounce juggles in one minute. 

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I think we can all agree that this won’t be the last time we hear about Zaila. At least three colleges offered her full-ride scholarships and she received a congratulations message from former President Barack Obama. With dreams so grand and a brilliant mind, the opportunities are endless.

Watch Zaila Avant-Garde’s history-making moment here

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By: Asha Bey

Asha meaning "full of life" was born and raised in New York City. Growing up with a big family and connecting with diverse people throughout life inspired Asha to take her communication skills to greater heights. After graduating with a Bachelor's in Mass Communications and a Master's in Business Administration, she aspires to write about topics relevant to the growth of young professional women. Aside from writing, Asha finds fulfillment in keeping up with fashion trends, indulging in self-care, attending social events and exploring new activities with family and friends.

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