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Meet the first African American champion in the history of the Scripps National Spelling Bee!

Zaila Avant-garde, 14, of Louisiana USA, won the event in Lake Buena Vista, Florida becoming the second Black champion in the bee’s 96-year history. The only previous Black winner of the spelling bee was Jody-Anne Maxwell of Jamaica, who won the event in 1998. Her win is significant to us, because black children were often excluded from participating on the national stage, even well after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Schools were ordered to racially integrate in the late 1950s, but this did not prevent white supremacists in governing positions within these schools to purposely exclude black children, by cunningly finding ways to make it difficult for black children to advance in the contest.

During Zaila’s spelling stint, she appeared virtually unaffected by stage fright. In fact, the only bump in her night came when she spelled “nepeta,” a genus of Old World mints.Chaitra Thummala, 12, of San Francisco, was the runner-up, and Bhavana Madini, 13, of New York City, placed third. The winning word was of course, an unusual one. “Murraya,” which is the genus of a fragrant tropical Asiatic and Australian tree.

She has been competing in spelling bees since she was 12, and participated in the 2019 Scripps Spelling Bee but did not place, and last year’s tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This now 14 year old also shares her love for spelling with basketball. She holds three marks in the Guinness World Records for her basketball prowess, according to the Times-Picayune. She owns records for the most bounce juggles in one minute with four basketballs (255), set last November, and most basketball bounces in 30 seconds (307), also with four basketballs, also set in November. In January 2021, she tied the record for most basketballs dribbled simultaneously by one person, bouncing six at once to share the record with Joseph Odhiambo, of Mesa, Arizona. She got her first record in 2019 for the most bounce juggles with three basketballs in one minute, finishing with 231.

Avant-garde said she hopes to become an NBA coach someday or work with NASA, the Times-Picayune also reported. She added that she might also pursue neuroscience, a topic she learned about while listening to the NPR podcast “Invisibilia.”

With her talent on the court and her otherworldly intellect, Zaila serves as real inspiration to black children, like Venus and Serena Williams have been to a new generation of Black women tennis champions. Remember the The against-all-odds success story featured in the 2006 fictional film “Akeelah and the Bee?” Now we have Zaila and the bee, and her inevitable success will play a significant role in fostering a new generation of black success stories.

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Meet the 2 year old prodigy who’s IQ is catching up with Albert Einstein’s!

With a name like hers we shouldn’t expect any less. Kashe Quest may look like your typical 2 year old, but this child wonder has earned her name being written in the world’s record books. She can name all of the elements on the periodic table, identify all 50 states within the USA by shape and location, learn Spanish and decipher patterns, according to her parents. A Los Angeles Native, Kashe was accepted into Mensa, a club only for those with the highest IQ (Intelligence Quotient) scores. She is now it’s youngest American member among 130,000 members worldwide.

(Mensa’s requirement for membership is a score at or above the 98th percentile on certain standardised IQ or other approved intelligence tests, such as the Stanford–Binet Intelligence Scales. The minimum accepted score on the Stanford–Binet is 132, while for the Cattell it is 148.)

Kashe Quest was born in 2019 to Sukhjit Athwal and Devon Quest. Athwal is of Indian heritage and Devon is African American. Devon is a UCLA School of Law magna cum laude graduate. She may not be your ordinary 2 year old, but her parents are on a mission to ensure that she experiences all the joys of childhood without being separated from a child – structured environment. Sukhjit, who is a trained educator, created her own pre-school called Modern School House. Here, Kashe will be able to interact with children her age, all while learning at her own pace.

Kashe with mother, Sukhjit Athwal

At a tender 18 months, her parents confirmed the advanced mind power of their child during a routine visit to the pediatrician. Once Kashe’s parents revealed their daughter’s skills, the doctor advised them to consult a psychologist, who confirmed her sky-high intelligence by administering a Mensa test. 

Sukhjit and Devon have taken the role of parenting Kashe quite seriously, and effectively communicating with their daughter is of high importance to them. They often shower her with words of reassurance whenever she gets frustrated doing a task. Kashe reciprocates by offering her own words of encouragement. “If she sees me trying to open a jar of pickles, she’ll come over and say, Dad I’m so proud of you!” 

Kashe’s Parents, Sukhjit Athwal and Devon Quest

Both parents admit that they have a huge responsibility on their hands raising Kashe. “She will wake up on a Saturday and say, ‘I want to do elements,’ or ‘I want to do states.’ However, this is a proud moment for them and they are more than willing to support her growth.

Fun Fact: Albert Einsten’s IQ is commonly cited as being 160, but that’s just an estimate; it’s unlikely that he ever took an IQ test during his lifetime. See 35 People with Higher IQs Than Einstein.