I missed the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee last night. It is always enjoyable to watch if for no other reason than all the kids are polite. Last night 14-year-old Snigdha Nandipati, a San Diego eighth grader, won by spelling guetapens (means ambush or trap) at the spelling bee in National Harbor, Md. This isn’t the first spelling-bee performance for her, she competed last year and landed in 27th place. She won $30,000 in winnings, plus a $2,500 U.S. savings bond and a $5,000 scholarship. Nandipati was among nine finalists who were plucked from 278 contestants in the nationwide competition.
Now one of the things that stand out in these spelling bees are how many Indians-Americans are in the finals - usually about half are Indian-American. It turns out there is a Indian organization called the North South Foundation (NSF) that runs spelling bees (and other educational events) for Indian/Americans preparing them for the National Spelling Bee. The North South Foundation circuit consists of 75 chapters run by close to 1,000 volunteers. Not only do they produce winners but they go out and make sure there is a sponsor in their area for their children to go to the spelling bee as it is not just a matter of being a great speller you have to live in a school district with a sponsoring newspaper or community organization. So they go out and convince local newspapers to be sponsors.
An article that talks about this process is at http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2010/06/why_are_indian_kids_so_good_at_spelling.html