NEW ORLEANS — Zaila Avant-garde, the National Spelling Bee champion from Harvey, Louisiana has been offered a full scholarship to LSU’s Honors College and also to Southern University in Baton Rouge even though she hasn’t started high school.
Saturday, LSU President William F. Tate IV Tweeted an offer of a full scholarship to attend LSU, even though the young student hasn’t even started high school.
"Your academic performance reflected scholarship first! You modeled intellectual excellence," LSU President William F. Tate IV tweeted Saturday.
"@LSU_Honors awaits. I write to offer you a full scholarship to attend LSU. Here for you!," Tate wrote.
Southern President-Chancellor Ray L. Belton made a similar offer via Twitter. "I am pleased to announce that @Southernu_BR is offering #ZailaAvantgarde a full scholarship and "#Zaila Day" at SU, part of the nation's only #HBCU system. Our student leaders, faculty and alumni look forward to meeting with you. We welcome you to the #JaguarNation! #WeAreSouthern."
It’s been quite a few days for 14-year-old Avant-garde since becoming the first African-American and first Louisiana champion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. She has become a local and national celebrity.
Combine a winning smile and personality, extreme confidence, a dizzying array of talents that include dribbling basketballs at an unbelievable rate, being a unicycling expert and, of course, the ability to spell words most of us haven’t even heard about, and you have a marketer’s dream.
The excitement hasn’t abated either.
Avant-garde made such an impression on the public. She’s had congratulations tweeted to her by former President Barack Obama, former First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice-President Kamala Harris, entertainment mogul Oprah Winfrey. She was even congratulated by Keke Palmer, who played the fictional Akeelah in the movie Akeelah and the Bee, the story of a young African-American girl who becomes the National Spelling Bee champion.
Avant-garde has made the rounds of the national morning shows, appearing on CBS’ This Morning, NBC’s Today Show and ABC’s Good Morning America.
“It’s kind of like a dream come true because I’ve been working for that goal for like two years, and to finally have it is the best possible outcome,” she told CBS.
She also said she wasn’t nervous about the spotlight and intense pressure of the Bee. She had finished 370th in the contest two years ago when she was in sixth grade and she worked up to seven hours a day to practice spelling prior to this year’s event.
As for someone who has a world of possibilities in front of her, Avant-garde has talked about going to Harvard, working for NASA, playing in the WNBA and even coaching in the NBA.