After Zaila Avant-garde became the first Louisianan to ever win the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee on July 8, 2021, Louisiana senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy introduced a resolution to the Senate congratulating her on her massive achievement, according to a KATC article.
Born in Harvey, Louisiana, the 14-year-old Zaila Avant-garde became not only the first Louisiana resident to win first prize at the 93rd annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, but Avant-garde was the first African-American Champion of the event in its total 96-year history.
The final rounds of the event took place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida after the event had originally been postponed the previous year due to COVID-19. Avant-garde, whose last name is in honor of the jazz legend John Coltrane, won the competition by correctly spelling the word “murraya,” which is defined by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as being “a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees having pinnate leaves and flowers with imbricated petals.”
Upon winning the competition, Avant-garde, who has only been spelling competitively for just two years, quickly became a notable household name in the United States as she was congratulated by numerous celebrities, nationalinstitutions, and American presidents.
Throughout the competition, Zaila Avant-garde was very vocal about her dream to attend Harvard University after high school, but that hasn’t stopped Louisiana’s higher learning institutions from attempting to recruit her just hours following her win. Just one day after she had claimed the $50,000 grand prize for correctly spelling her final word, Avant-garde had received a formal invitation from the Louisiana Community and Technical College System offering her a full-ride scholarship to attend any of Louisiana’s community and technical colleges.
This preliminary offer was then followed by William Tate, the newly-named president of Louisiana State University, offering the teenage champion a full-ride scholarship to the LSU Roger Hadfield Ogden Honors College the following morning. Afterward, Baton Rouge’s Southern University became the third Louisiana academic institution to offer Avant-garde a full-ride scholarship.
Like LSU’s president, Southern University president-chancellor Ray L. Benton offered the scholarship to Zaila via Twitter, but Benton also created a “Zaila Day” at the school in honor of the speller’s remarkable achievement, saying, “”our student leaders, faculty, and alumni look forward to meeting with you. We welcome you to the #JaguarNation!”
So now, outside of her being gifted numerous scholarships from academic institutions, appearing on NBC’s “Today” show, and receiving an invitation to attend the ESPY Awards from the event’s celebrity host Anthony Mackie, Avant-garde has a biography and a congratulatory resolution in the senate thanks to Louisiana senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy.
The full resolution highlights the younger speller’s many accomplishments in the world of spelling such as her spending “most of her days spelling around 13,000 words per day” and going on to having “survived several rounds of fierce competition this year” facing off against competitors “from across the United States, American Samoa, the Bahamas, Canada, Europe, Guam, Jamaica, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.”
The resolution also highlights the impressive fact that Zaila Avant-garde currently holds three Guinness World Records for basketball, specifically for the most basketballs dribbled simultaneously, the most basketball bounces, and the most bounce juggles in one minute.
The Senate resolution continued to congratulate Avant-garde on winning the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee, an event that is described as being “the largest and longest-running educational promotion in the United States and is administered by the E.W. Scripps Company and local sponsors, most of whom publish daily and weekly newspapers.”
Apart from the congratulations, the resolution also served to solidify the fact that the champion, named “Miss Zaila” in the resolution, is the first winner from the State of Louisiana as well as the first African-American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, thus bringing “an immense sense of pride” to her hometown of Harvey and the state as a whole.
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