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New England youngsters participate in Spelling Bee and Vocab contests.

Text submitted by Samit Bhattacharya and Venkat Gade
Photos by Raghavendra Paturi

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The months of March, 2002 saw a new beginning for the Indians in Southern Connecticut and New Hampshire with the first spelling bee and vocabulary contest organized by North South Foundation in collaboration with the Association of Indians in America (AIA), CT chapter and Indian Association of New Hampshire respectively. In departure from earlier years this year’s competitions included a junior and senior spelling bee, and vocabulary contest. All these events were conducted simultaneously to save time.

In addition to these new centers, the existing centers at Hartford, Providence and Boston held their annual spelling bees on Mar 31, Mar 24 and Apr 6 respectively. The pristine halls of University of Hartford, Brown University, Providence and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, provided the perfect setting for these educational contests. The premises of University of Hartford were made possible thanks to the efforts of Dr. Rao Singamsetti, a professor in the department of Economics and Finance and co-sponsorship by Ekta, the Indian Student Association of the University of Hartford. In Rhode Island, HARI (Hindi Association of Rhode Island) was a co-sponsorer of the event at Providence whereas the MIT event was co-sponsored by AID Boston, with Dr. Dipangkar Dutta being instrumental in making the necessary arrangements at MIT.Madhavi Nathan and Gaugarian Oliver were the North South Volunteers for this event.

The spelling bee at Providence was marked by an exciting double tiebreaker. At the end of regulation time (two oral and one written phase) in the Senior Bee, two contestants (Ruchir Shah and Maya Sharodi) were tied. Eventually after two tiebreakers, one word separated the two. Although the winner had been identified, kudos to both Ruchir and Maya and the other contestants for a splendid show.

In the words of one parent and judge of the junior spelling bee at Stamford, Dr. Anjali Mehta, "this event is great and sets a standard for it emphasizes the low-key and informal setup while maintaining a high standard of competition". The contests highlight the main focus of the event in guiding the children of Indian origin on building language skills and gaining self-confidence through these events. According to Jayashree Chakravarty, another parent and a judge of the junior spelling bee event, "it is great to see that the event de-emphasizes the glory of winning and allows the participants to focus on learning". “This is essential to encourage kids who would otherwise will not participate in these events,” said Sheela Katti, a judge of the vocabulary contest. As more of these testimonies from the parents and volunteers illustrate the spelling bee and vocabulary event had a great beginning and sure to see bigger following in the upcoming years.

Such commentary from parents and judges resonates deeply with the ideals of the NSF and the keen understanding by the organizers of the spelling bee, who are able to motivate more children to participate in these competitions. These competitions also provide the youth to participate in community events and get experienced in leadership skills. This was quite nicely epitomized by Kiran Pendri, a vocabulary contestant in Hartford who went to do a superb job as a pronouncer and judge at spelling bee contests in other centers.

The winners of each event were awarded trophies by North South Foundation while all the participants received certificates and in some centers, gift certificates from bookstores, courtesy of the local sponsoring organization.

The spelling bee contests were special this year for a Geography bee was conducted as a pilot project by the North South Foundation at some centers. It was a team challenge and the kids as well as the audience were riveted with interest until the completion. In two of the centers, there was a tie and it was a real cliff hanger to the end.

In addition to these contests in the North-East, North South Foundation is also holding similar contests in 23 centers throughout the country. The winners of all the regional events will be invited to the National Final which in its tenth anniversary year will be held at Wong auditorium, M.I.T., Cambridge on Aug 3rd and 4th. For more details about the contest please call Dr. Murali Gavini at 301-947-2702 or Dr. Samit Bhattacharya at 860-446-1445.To the great pleasure of NSF organizers, Ramya Tadipatri, daughter of the technical coordinator of all these contests in the NE centers (Kesava Rao Tadipatri), and Sneha Dontula (Senior Bee, Hartford) were adjudged the winner and runner-up, respectively at the state level Scripps-Howard spelling bee competition. Good luck to Ramya who will move on to the national championship!



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1.Senator from MA November 25, 2009ramkiyengar 

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