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Tejas Rao Wins The 2006 NSF Junior Vocabulary Contest

Ratnam Chitturi

Shivani Angappan, a precocious kindergartener from Beaverton, OR wowed one and all as she won the Junior National Spelling Bee and also took the 3rd rank in the Junior National Vocabulary Bee contest as part of the 14th Annual North South Foundation Championships recently held at Northwestern University (NWU), Evanston.. At her tender age, Shivani is a voracious reader, an editor of her class newspaper, plays the violin and piano and is part of a middle school orchestra. Srikrishna Raghavan from The Woodlands, TX who was the runner up last year won the Senior Spelling Bee. Tejas Rao from Maynard, MA, Akash Patel from Barrington, IL and Ankita Khandai from Aurora, IL won the Junior, Intermediate and Senior Vocabulary contests. For the Math contests, Suruchi Ramanujan from Overland Park, KS, Chanukya Malla from Northville, MI and Arjun Puranik from Palatine, IL  won the top rank in Math Bee Level 1, 2 and 3 contests respectively. Surcuhi won the North American Kumon challenge in 2005. Arjun Puranik, also a budding pianist had earlier in the year, taken 12th rank in the national Math Counts competition.  For the first time, North South Foundation held a Senior Geography Bee contest which was ably led by the 2006 National Geography Bee champion, Bonny Jain from Moline, IL. Suneil Iyer from Olathe, KS, who won the Kansas State National Geography Bee in 2006 and was placed fourth in the National Geography Bee in 2006, won this inaugural event.

The National Finals were co-sponsored by the South Asian Student Alliance (SASA) of NWU.  Over 700 finalists from over sixty five North South Foundation centers throughout the US participated in the event.  In addition to Spelling, Vocabulary, Math and Geography contests, the Foundation also held a Senior Essay contest, the topic for which dealt with the Iraq war and how the contestant would improve the situation if he/she were to be the next US president. The winner for the contest this year is Trisha Jain a tenth-grader from West Bloomfield, MI who plays the flute and basketball and also holds the 5th place in Michigan in the Oratory category of forensics. The Essay Contest was made possible by the kind donation of scholarship amounts and setting up of an endowment fund by Dr. Asok Ray, a leading orthopedic surgeon from Chicago under the aegis of Indima Foundation, a charity organization founded by him.

In the path of challenging children of their educational potential, North South Foundation, this year introduced yet another program, “Senior Public Speaking“, for high school students. The public speaking contest encompasses skills acquired in spelling, vocabulary and essay contests and challenges the youth of today to be better communicators, a trait that is of paramount importance in an increasingly interconnected flat globalized world. The subject of this year’s topic was about the rising gas prices and what the US president could do about it to contain it. The topic challenged the contestants by encouraging them to take leadership, and articulate how that leadership would translate into organizational activities leading to a change for the good of humanity. Aparna Ramakrishnan a Senior at Naperville, IL, took the first place. Aparna is a Founder/President of a local Interfaith Forum, an organization that highlights themes of religious tolerance.

This year, North South Foundation introduced a new category of recognition for contestants in lower grades competing against higher grades in a given contest. Thus based on their individual performances many younger contestants were awarded Rank-in-grade as an encouragement and recognition of their efforts.

Shravan Rama Dommaraju from St. Louis, MO and Apoorva Rangan from San Jose, CA and Pranav Mahadevan from Atlanta, GA and Krithika Varagur from Edison, NJ (a past winner) won the 2nd and 3rd places in Junior & Senior Spelling Bee respectively, while Nikhil Srinivasan from Cambridge, MA, Amani Paturi from Hinsdale, IL (past spelling bee national champion) and Swapanthi Nagulpally from Raleigh, NC were the runner-ups in the Junior, Intermediate and Senior Vocabulary contests respectively. Anirudh Dasarathy from Cleveland, OH, a black belt in karate from Broadview Heights, OH, and Pranay Udutha from Atlanta, GA won the 3rd places in Intermediate and Senior Vocabulary respectively. In the Level 1 Math Bee (Grade 2 and lower), Abhinand Sivaprasad from Portland, OR and Ravi Betzig a second-grader from Okemos, MI who loves Math, sports and cards, won the 2nd and 3rd places.  In Level 2, Tejas Sundaresan and Keval Yerigeri both from Cleveland, OH swept the 2nd and 3rd ranks.  In Level 3, Ramya Rangan from San Jose, CA and sister of spelling bee winner Apoorva and Anupa Murali won the 2nd and 3rd ranks respectively. Aditya Rajagopalan, a past National Math Bee champion took the 2nd rank in Senior Essay while Keshav Pillai, a past National Vocabulary champion was placed 3rd in the Senior Essay contest. In the inaugural Public Speaking contest, Stuti Pandey from Cupertino, CA and Chaitra Betageri from Chino Hills, CA and an experienced speaker and debater from her region took the 2nd and 3rd ranks.

This is the 7th year for North South Foundation’s Brain Bee, a neuroscience contest.  Sanat Sethi, a ninth-grader from Marlboro, NJ won this year’s Brain Bee Championship. Sanat will be invited to the 2007 International Brain Bee conducted by Prof. Norbert Myslinski of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD in March 2007. This year’s Brain Bee contest was conducted by Bhakti Nagalla, a past North South Foundation and International Brain Bee champion and Professor Mohan Sapru, a faculty member from North Western University. Rajiv Tarigopula from St. Louis, MO and Apeksha Dave won the 2nd and 3rd places in Brain Bee. Rajiv is a past North South Foundation Spelling and Vocabulary champion and finished 4th in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Enrichment activities were offered during the two-day event for children who are waiting for their contests and their parents.  On Saturday parents and children alike were regaled by an interactive presentation from Anu Garg word master, linguaphile and founder of wordsmith.org, who was a special invitee from Seattle, WA. Parents and children alike were also treated to invited guests such as Bonny Jain, the National Geography champion and his parents, international spelling celebrity and past North South Foundation champion, Samir Patel and his parents. Mr.Surya Padala, one of the first recipients of NSF scholarships in India gave a moving talk on ‘paying it forward.’ Dr. Ratnam Chitturi the founder of North South Foundation introduced the audience to the foundation’s activities, achievements and future projections and Dr Ravi Errabolu spoke about the values that the foundation stands for.  Dr. Krishnaiah Revuluri and Srinivas Vuppuluri conducted highly informative workshops on ‘Math Strategies’, ‘Resources in Math’ and ‘Math as a Language’.  Ms. Rupal Soni, who has been an Indicorps fellow spoke about ‘Importance of Youth Community Service” showing how youngsters can make important contributions for upliftment of humanity.

Continuing on with the tradition from past years, more than 15 children who had spent a part of their summer fundraising through NSF's Dollar-A-Square program were awarded pins. As part of the DAS program, participating children throughout the country take an active role in fundraising in increments of one dollar (one square in a sheet of 100 squares).  At the 2006 National finals, children brought funds to support 6 scholarships to poor but meritorious children in India.

“Congratulations for, once again, completing a well coordinated 2006 NSF finals. Every year, we are amazed to see the devotion of volunteers and the growing number of students at the regional and national events.  In this light, it is all the more important that NSF retains its "gold-standard" stature in the community it serves, promoting true excellence and equitability in all aspects of its educational contests” , was some feedback received from a parent, Chitro Neogy, MA.

Another parent, Krishnan Varagur, NJ said: I was very glad that I was able to attend the speech by the boy, who is one of the early recipients of the NSF- India scholarship. His story is an inspiration for all of us to try and do more to help deserving students like him in India. The move to invite children like Samir Patel, Rajiv Tarigopula and Bonny Jain was an especially inspiring one. Seeing other children who do well is a very powerful impetus for motivating children.”  

Madhav Durbha, another parent added, “The NSF finals in Chicago, was a very energizing and intellectually stimulating experience. I would like to personally thank NSF for providing such an excellent opportunity to our children to thrive.”

“I wanted to let you know that I had a wonderful time pronouncing at this year’s Spelling, Vocabulary and Math Bees. I was very impressed with the caliber of the participants and the energy of the Event itself. I actually had trouble sleeping on Sunday night because of my excitement!” said, Sreedhar Yedavalli, a pronouncer at these contests.
The National contest categories consisted of Junior and Senior Spelling Bees for children in grade 1-3 and 4-8 respectively. This year the Junior vocabulary (word-meaning) contest was initiated for children in grade 3 and below while the Intermediate Vocabulary was held for children in grades 4-7 and the Senior vocabulary for children in grades 8-12. The spelling and vocabulary were held in 3 phases with the last one involving elimination rounds that made it quite exciting. The Math Bee was held in two phases, one written and another lightning round with questions displayed on a screen for 60 seconds. The Level 1 in Math Bee is meant for Grades 2 and lower, the Level 2 for grades 3-5, the Level for grades 6-8. The Senior Geography Bee contest that was held at the Finals for the first time is open to grades 4-8. The Senior Public Speaking that was introduced by the Foundation this year and Senior Essay Writing is open to grades 9-12. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners of all these contests will receive North South Foundation scholarships of $1000, $500 and $250 respectively, redeemable in the freshman year of their college.

North South Foundation is a non-profit, tax-exempt and a wholly volunteer-run organization that awards scholarships to exceptionally qualified but needy students in India entering colleges regardless of religion, gender, caste, creed or geographic origin. To date, the Foundation has awarded more than 2,800 scholarships for students in India. In addition, the Foundation organizes educational contests for children of Indian origin living in USA. For more information please call Dr. Samit Bhattacharya at 860-739-2605 or Dr.Ratnam Chitturi at 630-323-1966 and check out the website www.northsouth.org.

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