1st-generation American wins NC spelling bee

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Nejat Alkadir, 12 (Photo credit: Winston-Salem Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A first-generation American, whose mother came to North Carolina barely speaking English, bested 31 other students Sunday to win the 72nd annual Winston-Salem Journal Regional Spelling Bee.

Nejat Alkadir, a seventh-grader at Ledford Middle School in Davidson County, spelled “suggestible” correctly to clinch the win and earn a trip to the national finals in Washington, D.C. She went back and forth with second-place finisher Dharani Govindasamy of Guilford County. Then he tripped over “twoling,” which is a type of crystal.

“He was really smart,” an ecstatic Nejat said after the contest. “When he missed the word, I knew that was my chance.”

Nejat and her family will head now to the Scripps National Spelling Bee finals. Perhaps just as important: Her dad’s going to buy her a cellphone, he said, as a reward.

“She’s got a good mind,” said father Aminu Alemu, who also noted that, in Ethiopian culture, children take the father’s middle name instead of the last.

“God give it to her,” Alemu said. “I’m very proud.”

So were Nejat’s self-described “American grandmothers,” Judy Austin and Jane Schrum. They met Nejat’s family through a church program more than a decade ago and beamed as Nejat hugged her new foot-and-a-half trophy.

“We were just amazed at her ability to pick up reading,” Austin said. “At 3½, she was reading.”

Students from 32 school systems, including home schools, area private schools and charter schools, competed in Sunday’s competition, which was sponsored by the Winston-Salem Journal and Truliant Federal Credit Union. Bee words ran the gamut, from the fairly simple — “condor” was the opening word — to the downright arcane.

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This story was provided by our news-gathering partners at the Winston-Salem Journal. To read more, visit journalnow.com.

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