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Scholarship offers pile up for 14-year-old spelling bee champ Zaila Avant-garde

In the days since Zaila Avant-garde made history when she became the first African American contestant to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the Louisiana native has begun to rack up full rides to college at just 14 years old.

On Saturday afternoon, Southern University and A&M College, the historically Black university in Baton Rouge, La., became one of the latest academic institutions to offer Zaila a full scholarship to its school.

Ray Belton, president of Southern University system, which describes itself as the nation’s sole historically Black university system with more than 12,000 students enrolled in various locations in Louisiana, said he was “pleased to announce” the university is extending Zaila “a full scholarship” and shared that the institution also had plans to make a “Zaila Day” in her honor. 

“Our student leaders, faculty, and alumni look forward meeting with you. We welcome you to the Jaguar Nation!” he added, referring to the university’s mascot.


The announcement came just hours after William F. Tate IV, president of Louisiana State University, made a similar offer of a full scholarship to Zaila on Twitter, praising her academic performance. 

“Your academic performance reflected scholarship first! You modeled intellectual excellence,” he tweeted. “@LSU_Honors awaits. I write to offer you a full scholarship to attend LSU. Here for you!”


On Friday, the Louisiana Community & Technical College System also announced it would be offering the teen “a full scholarship to any Louisiana community and technical college.”

“We believe our programs, such as aerospace technology, would be a great fit for you,” it wrote in a Facebook post.

Zaila, who hails from Harvey, La., won the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday. She emerged victorious in the 18th round after besting her opponents with the correct spelling of the word “murraya.”

It marked the first time in the history of the 96-year-old competition that an African American contestant won.

The victory drew widespread praise online as well as from a number of prominent figures, including former President Obama. 

“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,” Obama said.

Obama was referring to the three world records Zaila holds for basketball.

She has said she aspires to become a WNBA player someday, according to USA Today

Tags Barack Obama

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