A Champion’s Journey

Louisiana's Zalia Avant-garde Becomes First African American to Win Scripps National Spelling Bee

Edwin Buggage Editor-in-Chief
To Be Your B-E-S-T

In 2006 there was a film called Akeelah and the Bee, staring Laurence Fishburne, Angela Basset and Keke Palmer, who plays Akeelah a young girl who participates in the Scripps Spelling Bee and overcome obstacles to become a champion.

This inspirational film is now the real-life story of a young girl from Harvey, LA, Zalia Avant-garde. The 14-year-old recently made history as the first African American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee in its nearly 100-year history.

As she stood on the stage, young and confident, after spelling the word “Murraya,” a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees, it was announced she’d won and made history. At which time with youthful exuberance Zaila Avant-garde twirled around in a spin, with a triumphant smile beaming from her face as confetti fell from the ceilings.

The 14-year-old from Harvey, LA, had reason to twirl and spin, and most importantly, she had more than enough reasons to smile.
With her victory Zaila also took home the $50,000 first prize.

A Story of E-X-C-E-L-L-E-N-C-E
Her Spelling Bee victory is on one of many feats of greatness for the 14-year-old.

“Not only has she competed in spelling bees for two years, but she also already holds three Guinness World Records for dribbling, bouncing, and juggling basketballs. All before the ninth grade,” New York Times Writer Maria Cramer noted in a story published about this incredible youth.

In an interview with “Good Morning America,” Zaila said that she hopes that more African American students would participate and fare well in the Scripps Spelling Bee. “It is a gate-opener to being interested in education,” Zaila stated with hope and optimism in her voice hoping her victory would inspire others to pursue excellence.

Truly I-N-S-P-I-R-I-N-G
Celebrities including Oprah Winfrey as well as City and State leaders joined in praising Zalia and her wonderful accomplishment. One of those who also made history and inspired a nation and the world with his victory in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election.
“Three Guinness World Records and now the national spelling bee champ! Congrats, Zaila—your hard work is paying off. We’re all proud of you,” former President Barack Obama tweeted.

Avant-garde has more than 12,000 followers on Instagram, where she hopes to inspire young girls like herself. “Have faith and try new things,” she said in one of her posts.

A Bright Future of Unlimited P-O-S-S-I-B-I-L-I-T-I-E-S
For a life that is just beginning and being armed with amazing talent and also being from Louisiana; the world is truly her oyster. She has big dreams for her future and two Louisiana schools LSU and Southern have already offered her full scholarships.

“I have a lot of different ideas; I might be an NBA Basketball Coach. I might work for NASA if I can. I also have an interest in treating diseases of both the mind and body by studying neuroscience,” she remarked in a recent interview.

The Importance of P-A-R-E-N-T-I-N-G
Zalia did not get to this moment of greatness alone, for it is the caring and encouragement of her parents to help her thrive. It is a true testament to the importance of parenting. She is the daughter of Jawara Spacetime and Alma Heard.

In an article published in the Irish Times, her dad got the idea that his daughter had what it took by watching the spelling bee on television. He’d noticed his daughter had a great aptitude in solving complex math problems that could potentially translate well into spelling. Their belief in her is paying off for now she is a champion.

Reaching Your Full P-O-T-E-N-T-I-A-L
The world and the City are celebrating this young lady who is showing the best of Black Excellence. Zalia’s victory is proof positive what nurturing our kids’ gifts and guiding them is important for them to become their best selves.

Where they can live without limitations and low ceilings for themselves. This story is one that inspires and shows that there are young people in the New Orleans area who are truly amazing or have the potential to be.

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