Alisha Chakravarty isn’t your average sixth grader. When the rest of her family is watching movies, she would rather write an essay, and even when she doesn’t have a test, she’s studying anyway. This work ethic recently paid off for the Julien Elementary School student when she finished as a Top 5 Finalist at the California State Elementary Spelling Bee last Saturday, lasting 11 rounds and showing off a vocabulary that even the most talented writers would envy.
Chakravarty and 56 other fourth through sixth grade students from 29 counties competed in the competition, spelling out a myriad of difficult words in front of an audience of 300 people. Words like “telekinesis” and “simultaneously” were no problem for Chakravarty, but ultimately, it was the word “gallimaufry” that proved to be too tricky to spell. Still, she was happy to have made it so far in the contest.
“I was super excited I was one of the finalists,” said Chakravarty. “It meant a lot to me, because I studied hard and all of that studying paid off and I was able to represent Turlock.”
Chakravarty qualified for the state competition after she won the Stanislaus County Elementary Spelling Championship. Walnut Elementary School fourth grader Ahmad Dagher also came in first during the county competition, but was eliminated from the state contest in the second round.
Since her county-level win, Chakravarty had been studying non-stop for the state spelling bee. She studied at recess and during lunch, and even stayed up past her bedtime until 10 p.m., to learn just a few more words before sleeping. Even then, she would sleep with her flashcards under her pillow — a studying habit she has used since the age of eight, which she believes enables the words to transfer from her pillow to her brain as she sleeps.
“I worked really hard every day for half a year,” said Chakravarty. “I would go online and look at spelling websites, and then a lot of spelling books and study those, too.”
Chakravarty also learned a multitude of foreign languages so that when presented with a word during the competition, she could ask for its language of origin and use her knowledge to remember certain spelling techniques each different language uses. She taught herself Old English, Latin, French, Greek, Arabic and Spanish, just to name a few.
Chakravarty’s mother, Sunita Saini, said watching her daughter on stage was a “dream come true.”
“She does so well and is so successful because she truly enjoys doing these things,” said Saini. “It’s all her personal passion, and we support her in the things she does.”
As a Top 5 Finalist, Chakravarty received a trophy, a medal, a Kindle Fire and a bag of Cheetos. She hopes to apply to compete at the national spelling bee, but whether or not she will is still up in the air.
“I want to do it, but we’ll see,” said Chakravarty.