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W-o-r-k before s-u-c-c-e-s-s

Siblings stun Potter spelling bee crowd

By Bruce Beck
bruce.beck@amarillo.com

For the last eight rounds of the Potter County Senior Spelling Bee, Anjali Raghuram successfully spelled every word pitched to her by pronouncer Dr. Steve Urban.

And for those eight rounds, her younger brother Akshay Raghuram matched her word for word in the auditorium at Carver Elementary Academy.

She'd spell "parquetry;" he'd counter with "dialectician." She'd spell "penitentiary;" he'd field "epidemiologist."

The Bonham Middle School eighth-grader would handle "isosceles;" her Sleepy Hollow Elementary School fifth-grade sibling would navigate "paraphernalia."

And on and on it went until the 24th round. Anjali spelled "nyctalopia" correctly and watched as Akshay stumbled on "omniphibious."

When Anjali correctly spelled "geodesy" in the 25th round, she became the 2008 Potter County Senior Spelling Bee champion, besting 44 other spellers from Amarillo Independent School District campuses, Highland Park and River Road ISD schools, St. Andrew's Episcopal School, Holy Cross Catholic Academy and Trinity Lutheran Christian School.

While Akshay said he was confident of being able to spell most of the words Urban sent his way, Anjali said, "I was a little unsure about 'gratis' (in the 22nd round)."

The sister and brother readied themselves for the spelling bee by studying together, but didn't immerse themselves to the exclusion of anything else, Anjali said.

"We studied whenever we got the chance - after homework was done," she said. "And normally we help each other."

The siblings' father, Dr. Nandu Raghuram, said his children got their spelling ability from his wife Anuradha - "she's a good speller" - and remarked on the differences in how Akshay and Anjali approach the skill.

"Anjali has more of a flair for words," he said. "Akshay has to think things through (by pronouncing the words and breaking them down into syllables)."

Anjali now sets her sights on the March 22 Regional Spelling Bee at West Texas A & M University's Branding Iron Theatre. Her brother said he'd help her prepare for the contest, another step closer to her return to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., where she competed in 2005 as a fifth-grader.

The top five spellers in the Potter County Senior Spelling Bee were:

  • Anjali Raghuram, Bonham Middle School, eighth grade
  • Akshay Raghuram, Sleepy Hollow Elementary School, fifth grade
  • Kunal Mehta, St. Andrew's Episcopal School, eighth grade
  • Grace Douthitt, Crockett Middle School, seventh grade
  • Daniel Huseman, Holy Cross Catholic Academy, seventh grade
calendar of events
  • January 11
    Kickoff of 2009 Program
    Find out what Celebrate Education is all about in this special section in your Sunday paper.
  • March 7
    Regional Spelling Bee, West Texas A&M University
    The annual Regional Spelling Bee will feature the top spellers from the Amarillo area. The top five winners will receive scholarship money ranging from $500 to $5,000 and the winner will travel to Washington, D.C., in June to represent the area in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
  • Spring and Fall
    Amarillo Reads community-wide reading projects.
    Dates and details TBA
  • April
    Amarillo Education Matching Grants Program. Exact date TBA
  • April 10
    What's a Kid to Do Special Section
  • April 12
    What's a Kid to Do at the Amarillo Civic Center
    This event will focus on activities and camps for children to participate in during the summer..
  • May 8-29
    Beating the Odds
    A series of stories published daily in the Amarillo Globe-News during the graduation season that profiles people who have inspiring stories to tell about the degree they are about to receive.
  • May 12
    Ready for the Real World program at Amarillo Civic Center
    AISD juniors get training on what's going to face them in a little more than a year.
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Special Section
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Event at West Texas A&M University
  • Fall
    Discover College Day
    Fifth graders from area schools visit college campuses.
  • October 1
    Great Jobs Special Section
    Focusing on well paying jobs available in the area that people may not know about.
  • November 2
    Career Education Special Section
    Focusing on businesses and others in the community helping young people gain a career vision.
  • November
    Yes You Can Event
    Designed to help people gain information about the next level of education from GED to PhD. Date TBA.
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