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Spellbound: Local Students Win National Bee

McKinney, Frisco and Flower Mound each boast a winner

Supporting students has always been a priority at CoServ. So when we heard that the top three spellers in the country are CoServ Members, we knew we had to share their stories. Karthik Nemmani, Naysa Modi and Abhijay Kodali are three hardworking students who know what it takes to be winners at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. 

Karthik Nemmani, McKinney

How do you spell “champion?”

K-a-r-t-h-i-k. The incoming 9th-grader at Independence High School won the 91st Scripps National Spelling Bee in May. His winning word? “Koinonia,” a Greek word related to spiritual communion.

(We didn’t know it either.)

“I did the first spelling bee when I was 4, but actively pursued spelling for seven years,” Karthik said, including studying 25 to 30 hours each week for the competition.

With a strong interest in science and math, he is saving his cash prizes for college and hopes to one day attend an Ivy League school.

Karthik participated through RSVBee, a new program that allows students who did not win their regional spelling bees to qualify for a chance to enter the national competition. (He was runner up in the Collin County Spelling Bee won by Naysa Modi of Frisco.)

Since his big win, Karthik has been featured on “Good Morning America,” “Today Show,” “CBS This Morning,” “Live with Kelly and Ryan” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” – the latter his favorite because Jimmy’s co-host Guillermo Rodriguez kept intentionally mispronouncing words in the show’s mock spelling bee, drawing laughter from the audience. 

Naysa Modi, Frisco

Fresh off her first-place regional victory, Naysa Modi traded places with the second-place winner of the 2018 Collin County Spelling Bee after 17 rounds at the national competition. Naysa is a lifelong learner.

“Since I was little, I was obsessed with reading,” she said. “No two words have the same history. Every word is its own mystery, its own puzzle, if you will.”

Naysa, who turns 13 this month and will begin 8th grade at Reynolds Middle School in Prosper in the fall, started competing in spelling bees three years ago when she was in the fourth grade. She plans to save the prize money for college and study medical science to become a neurosurgeon.

“As parents, you support your child in this – it helps her gain knowledge of a lot of fields,” said her father, Nayan Modi. “She has made lifelong friends through the spelling bee with some of the best brains in the country.”

The word that got her? “Bewusstseinslage,” which means a state of consciousness devoid of sensory components. Naysa’s favorite word? “spizzerinctum.” “It means the will to succeed,” Naysa said.

Abhijay Kodali, Flower Mound

Abhijay Kodali was still in elementary school when he placed third in this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee. He begins sixth grade at McKamy Middle School this month.

Abhijay misspelled “aalii,” a word that means hopbush (ornamental shrub or tree), in the 16th round.

His favorite word? “Bee,” he said. “Spelling words in a spelling bee is like a puzzle because you put together the clues like the definition and etymology in order to spell the word.”

Abhijay tied for third place with Jashun Paluru of West Lafayette, Ind., and said he learned a lot.

“I enjoyed being on stage at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and I’m glad I had the experience,” he said.

Is Abhijay planning to compete again next year?

“Yes, and I’d like to do better.”

Since 1925, the National Spelling Bee has aimed to improve spelling, increase vocabularies, help students learn concepts and develop correct English usage. Under the new RSVBee program, a record 515 students participated in 2018, a 77 percent increase over the previous year.