Two years before she could actually participate in the Stanislaus County Elementary Spelling Championship, seven-year-old Alisha Chakravarty was sitting in the back row of the auditorium, writing down each word.
“Even though I wasn’t allowed to participate in second grade, I sat in back because I really like to learn and I wanted to know more words so I could get better at spelling,” said Chakravarty.
Now a sixth grader at Julien Elementary School, Chakravarty was one of two Turlock students to win this year’s Stanislaus County Elementary Spelling Championship, which pits 75 of the county’s top spellers in fourth through sixth grade against each other.
“Winning was really cool because in fourth grade and fifth grade I didn’t make it to state,” said Chakravarty. “It felt good and it means a lot to me because I get to go on further and I might make it to nationals. It showed me that if you work hard, you can accomplish a lot.”
To prepare for the county championship, Chakravarty said she studied the county’s word list, as well as other words, three times a day. She even put some words under her pillow, a studying habit her mother Sunita Saini said has been going on since Chakravarty was eight years old.
“It’s the most adorable thing,” laughed Saini. “When she was eight she would put the word under her pillow and she would tell me that the words would go from her pillow into her brain.”
Walnut Elementary School fourth grader Ahmad Dagher also came in first during the Stanislaus County Elementary Spelling Championship this year after he was inspired to compete by his siblings.
“Most of my siblings did it, so I just wanted to be like them,” said Dagher. “I was surprised that I got first place though because no one in my family has ever won the county spelling championship. I just did a lot of studying.”
Dagher said that he studied for at least an hour each day months in advance of the championship, mastering words on the county’s list such as erroneous, blasphemy, beleaguer and hieroglyphs. One word he was unable to spell correctly, however, was “grammatically.”
“I was going to spell it correctly, but the stress and pressure got inside my head and sort of messed me up,” said Dagher. “Anesthesia was a little hard for me, too.”
Both Chakravarty and Daghar will represent Stanislaus County at the State Championship on May 13, 2017 at the San Joaquin Office of Education in Stockton. University Charter School fifth grader Adam Vartan will serve as an alternate.
“I have a book that I read one chapter from every day and I’m going to start learning different languages like Latin and French because I want to go to the national spelling bee,” said Chakravarty.
“I’ll start preparing now. I’m both nervous and excited,” said Daghar.